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The MBLWHOI Library is in the process of cataloguing and digitizing its herbarium collection of more than 9000 specimens of vascular and non-vascular plants into an on-line database. When completed, it will be a fully searchable database of specimen images and associated data. Of the non-vascular specimens 2,236 algae have been digitized. However, digitization of the other non-vascular specimens (bryophytes, lichens and fungi) has not been started. The digitization of the vascular plants is in progress.
Why a Digital Herbarium?
The MBLWHOI Library Herbarium documents the flora of Cape Cod, Massachusetts and associated coastal islands. Cape Cod is a region of great botanical and ecological interest. It is well known to botanists as a phytogeographic boundary between the cold water flora typical of more northerly regions, and the flora of warmer waters to the south. The Cape is also unique in the number of marine algal species found there. The herbarium collection, dating back to the 1850s, documents this important and diverse flora.
Placing specimen images and data into a fully searchable, web-accessible database will:
- Facilitate the study of floristic and environmental changes over time, including changes in geographic ranges of species.
- Make the collection available to researchers throughout the world.
- Create an online compendium of the flora of Cape Cod and the Islands.
- Bring together information on the diversity of algal species and their distributions along the northeastern coast of North America.
- Contribute towards preservation of the collection.
Database records contain specimen data from the herbarium labels and other available records. For algae, species-specific information including current and antiquated taxonomy, geographic and vertical distribution, and seasonality is added to each record, creating a content-rich compendium of the marine flora of the region.
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