New York Botanical Garden (2009)

Rescue and Integration of Botanical Data for Conservation in the Southwestern Amazon

Project Details

Grantee Organization: New York Botanical Garden
Grant Amount: $ 199,410
Contact: Douglas C. Daly
Contact Email: ddaly 'atsign' nybg.org
Funding Dates: 1/1/2009-12/31/2011
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The parts of Peru, Brazil, and Bolivia that comprise the Southwestern Amazon share a rich and distinct flora, as well as a daunting set of challenges, threats, and opportunities that can only be effectively addressed by well-coordinated efforts on a regional scale. Despite being a conservation “hot spot”, much of the data for plant collections representing the region’s 15,000 species of vascular plants were scattered in various forms among often incompatible and isolated sources in four countries. This rendered valuable biodiversity information unavailable and unusable for region-wide analysis and planning at this critical crossroads in the region’s history. Through JRS funding, the New York Botanical Garden was able to “rescue” over 90,000 botanical records and integrate them into a central online repository. This provides baseline biodiversity information, which can serve as the scientific basis for conservation and rational management of the region’s valuable plant and forest resources.

Key Objectives and Activities

This project, the first such effort for an entire quadrant of the Amazon, set out to “rescue,” integrate, and clean all available data on the plant diversity of the Southwestern Amazon Region, and begin to apply them to data-starved forest resource management and conservation initiatives. The project team also worked to establish effective exchange of human resources and specimens, information transfer, and botanical exploration among regional institutions; enhance regional capacity for managing and applying accurate botanical data; and create a substantial nucleus of open access botanical data for the region.

Planned Outputs and Outcomes

  • Server installed at PPBio in Manaus, personnel from at least 5 herbaria trained in using BRAHMS software.
  • 12 personnel and students trained in digital photography
  • 3,000 images of SW Amazon flora linked to species records
  • 15,000+ specimens imaged in regional herbaria
  • 10,000+ collection records data-based, Additional Data from regional experts, botanical literature,  and other collections loaded and vetted
  • 5 undergraduate internships at herbaria
  • 2 graduate internships at NYBG
  • 15,000 collections newly geo-referenced
  • 10 species pages completed for key timber species

Primary Software Platforms

The project uses BRAHMS software, developed by the Plant Sciences department of University of Oxford.

Results to Date

  • 2 Organizational meetings of herbaria  
  • $5364 of technology distributed to participating consortium institutions.
  • BRAHMS server installed in New York providing access regional data while maintaining each institutions autonomy and ownership of their own data.
  • 73810 collection records databased, plus 34600+ more expected.
  • Approximately 28,500 images from 5 institutions imaged, plus 20000 high-resolution images through an additional grant. 5,000 field images organized and labeled in to be linked to KE-Emu.
  • 10 regional undergraduate students participated in internships and exchanges between herbaria.
  • 3 post-graduates each spent at least 3 months at NYBG, working on collections processing, identification techniques, writing proposals, LightRoom software, and lab techniques. 
  • Field guide to timber trees published

Lessons Learned

Diplomacy, as well as lack of institutional support and capacity were some of the greatest challenges faced by this project. Differences in the resources available to, and technological literacy of herbaria caused discrepancies between how quickly data was able to be collected and vetted. Organizational Politics also played a much larger role than expected as one institution was completely closed for two years over interpersonal strife. This shows that in addition to meeting the technological needs of institutions, projects should take organizational capacity into account when designing projects and building coalitions. Careful assessments early in the process may avoid delays later on. 

Notes from JRS

JRS is happy to have been part of this important project to make information about the flora of SW Amazonia more accessible, and build the capacity of herbaria working throughout the region. NYBG continues to build upon this important work, in January 2014 a new project was announced to inventory timber species in the Brazilian Amazon in conjunction with the Brazilian Forest Service.

Last Updated: February 28th, 2017

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