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Abstract Detail

Floristics & Taxonomy

Alba, Christina [1], Levy, Richard [2], Islam, Melissa [1].

We’re all outstanding in our field: Combining the strengths of botanical collections and ecological data to improve knowledge of plant biodiversity.

Botanists and ecologists both study plant biodiversity, but often operate in non-overlapping spheres due to differences in research foci or methods. Fostering collaboration between these groups can lead to more-valuable research outcomes, as each tradition has strengths that complement the other. Floristics, defined broadly as the study of which plant species occur in an area, is especially set to benefit from increased collaboration between botanists and ecologists. A botanical approach to floristics is qualitative, involving the collection of specimens that are linked to verbal descriptions of the site, as well as the date and location of collection. These specimens represent a physical snapshot of conditions that existed at the time of collection, and are critical for verifying and updating taxonomy. Given that ~350 million specimens have been collected over the last 350 years, collections have an unmatched spatial and temporal scope. Further, the long-standing use of strict data curation standards by the museum collections community, as well as more recent digitization efforts, has placed herbarium specimens at the forefront of biological "big data" being used to explore macroecological patterns. However, to capture which mechanisms underlie the observed patterns requires hypothesis-driven research that is quantitative and systematically designed. Ecologists typically operate in this realm, generating statistically robust data sets. Collecting voucher specimens is rarely prioritized in this research setting because the gathering of ecological field data is time-consuming and may not require perfect taxonomic resolution. Further, given the question- and investigator-specific nature of ecological research, data curation standards are not well defined. An opportunity exists to link physical collections, with their tradition of curation and transparent, repeatable access by all researchers, with quantitative ecological data, which goes beyond explaining patterns to describing mechanisms. The Research & Conservation Department at Denver Botanic Gardens is working to better integrate botanical and ecological data with a case study project in 2018. Staff will pair a collections-based floristic inventory of the High Line Canal Recreational Trail in Denver, CO, with a plot-based ecological study relating plant abundances along the trail corridor to environmental conditions. Importantly, the specimen- and ecological data will be integrated for curation using Darwin Core data standards. This approach will link the information describing specimens, field images, ecological sampling data, and all research methods, which will be published on the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). The data will thus remain unified and publicly available in perpetuity.

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1 - Denver Botanic Gardens, Research & Conservation, 1005 York Street, Denver, CO, 80206, United States
2 - Denver Botanic Gardens, Research & Conservation Departmetn, 1005 York Street, Denver, CO, 80206, United States

none specified

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: 46, Floristics & Taxonomy
Location: 105/Mayo Civic Center
Date: Wednesday, July 25th, 2018
Time: 4:15 PM
Number: 46011
Abstract ID:771
Candidate for Awards:None

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