Caralluma europaea (Foto: C. Aedo)

Caralluma europaea
 


Vascular Plant Systematics: floras and monographs

Finding out about the Earth’s biodiversity is one of the major scientific challenges of the 21st century (Science 289.2000). At a time when the rate of species extinction is high and change is looming over major ecosystems, the task of cataloguing and demarcating species as well as arranging them in higher order groups is set to be a key item in managing the natural world.

In this context, the floras and monographs on which this line is working make an essential contribution to the desiderata of furthering knowledge of life on Earth and they have an immediate effect on other studies, such as phylogeny or biogeography, both for the knowledge that they contribute and the increase in scientific collecting that they encourage.

All the experts agree that in some parts of Europe, North America and East Asia alone there is a high degree of knowledge of vascular plants. In the Mediterranean Region the knowledge level is medium, while it is low to very low in the tropics, especially the Neotropics. In Ecuador alone, which is half the size of Spain, around 15,000 species have been included in a preliminary listing – more than in the whole of Europe (circa 13,500).

Our line of work attempts to help fill the great gaps that still exist regarding knowledge of the Earth’s plant biodiversity. We attempt to identify areas in which it is viable to work at present or in the near future and in which the materials available in our scientific collections make the undertaking more efficient. As a result of this analysis, working is underway on the Iberian Flora and the Flora of Equatorial Guinea, and the most suitable options are being investigated for a project in the Neotropics, when there are enough human resources available to do so. Several partial studies in Panama, Colombia and Chile have not been consolidated due to such shortcomings; however, they have made it possible to improve the quality of the scientific collections, which will no doubt facilitate any future work in that area.

The monographs on which we are currently working generally involve taxonomic groups that have proved to be very complex in the floras in progress and which require a more general focus in order to achieve sound results. Specific choices regarding the groups responds to very diverse causes and times, making it relatively heterogeneous, but has yielded very positive outcomes as regards the quality of the floras. Furthermore, training specialists in various groups has resulted in invitations to take part in such internationally important flora studies as the Flora of China and the Flora of North America.

 

Real Jardín Botánico
Real Jardín Botánico, CSIC. Plaza de Murillo, 2. Madrid E-28014 (ESPAÑA). Tel. +34 91 4203017. FAX: +34 91 4200157
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