Enhancement of conservation knowledge through increased access to botanical information - Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew research repository
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Journal article

Enhancement of conservation knowledge through increased access to botanical information

26 February 2019


Herbarium specimens are increasingly recognized as an important resource for conservation science and virtual herbaria are making specimens freely available to a wider range of users than ever before. Few virtual herbaria are designed with conservation use as a primary driver. Exceptionally, Brazil's Reflora Virtual Herbarium (RVH) was created to increase knowledge and conservation of the Brazilian flora. The RVH is closely integrated with the Flora of Brazil 2020 platform on which Brazil's new national Flora is under construction. Both resources are accessible via the Reflora home page and thousands of users move seamlessly between these Reflora resources. To understand how the Reflora resources are currently used and their impact on conservation science, we conducted a literature review and an online survey. We searched for publications of studies in which Reflora resources were used and publications resulting from Brazilian researchers who were part of Reflora's research and mobility program. The survey contained multiple choice questions and questions that required a written response. We targeted Reflora webpage visitors with the survey to capture a wider range of Reflora users than the literature review. Reflora resources were used for a variety of conservation-relevant purposes. Half the 806 scientific publications in which Reflora was cited and 81% of the 1069 survey respondents accessing Reflora resources mentioned conservation-relevant research outputs. Most conservation-relevant uses of the Reflora resources in scientific publications were research rather than implementation focused. The survey of Reflora users showed conservation uses and impacts of virtual herbaria were more numerous and diverse than the uses captured in the literature review. Virtual herbaria are vital resources for conservation science, but they must document use and impacts more comprehensively to ensure sustainability.


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