One of the objectives of the plant diversity research group at Oxford University is to catalogue data that describe which species of plants occur in different localities.
One of these activities is the development of a networked computing system known as BRAHMS (Botanical Research And Herbarium Management System).
BRAHMS is a data gathering and processing tool that encourages projects in different countries to assemble details about their local floras into a central data store. These data can then be used for many different purposes. Examples are producing species distribution maps; evaluating meaningful species diversity indices for different areas; pinpointing geographic areas that seem to be very rich in species; and highlighting areas that have been rarely or never visited by botanists.
During the last 12 months, training courses on how to use BRAHMS and the data it stores have been held in Brazil, Georgia, Ghana, Madagascar, Malaysia, South Africa and Vietnam. Botanists, ecologists and others on these courses learn how to manage and make greater use of the botanical data available in their own countries and how to speed up capturing yet more data.
The most recent course was held in February 2010 in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island, has one of the world’s highest rates of plant endemism. Of the approximately 10 – 15,000 plant species found here, as many as 80% are found only on this island.
The development of BRAHMS and the running of associated training events is greatly assisted by the IHG Global Hotspot Initiative.
Globally, there are 8 recognised species of baobab tree and of these, 6 are only found on Madagascar including the species Adansionia ze shown here. Read more on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adansonia. Foto provided by Stuart Cable who coordinates RBG Kew’s Madagascar projects.
Some of the luxuriant littoral forest vegetation in the Southeast of Madagascar showing stilt rooted Pandan (screw-pine) trees (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandanus) and large leaved aroids (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Araceae) – relatives of common European house plants like Monstera and Philodendron. This Pandan species is found only in this part of Madagascar. Foto provided by Stuart Cable.
A few of the participants of the Madagascar BRAHMS training course February 2010 learning how best to assess plant diversity for different regions of the country.
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