In the December 21, 2010 edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Daniel Bebber and coauthors emphasize the central importance of herbaria for discovering and understanding global biodiversity. One of their most interesting findings is that, “of the estimated 70,000 [flowering plant] species still to be described, more than half already have been collected and are stored in herbaria,” and thus that greater effort and funding should be devoted to maintaining and utilizing herbarium specimens.
The September 2010 Journal of Ecology reports on the results of a climate change study led by Karen Robbirt, which found that herbarium specimens were as useful as field-collected data, for measuring plants’ responses to climate change. Using herbarium data in this way allows researchers access to data with far greater temporal and geographic breadth than is possible for field-collected data, and suggests another important potential contribution for the approximately 2.5 billion herbarium specimens worldwide.
Propagation of rare plants from historic seed collections: implications for species restoration and herbarium management
In their study from Restoration Ecology in June, 1993, Bowles, Betz, and DeMauro demonstrate that rare herbarium specimens often serve as repositories of living seeds. These living seeds can be planted to aid in rare species recovery.