UG creates virtual herbarium - Herbarium Pomeranicum

Photo: Cezary Bogus

The Virtual Pomeranian Herbarium, created within the framework of the UG project entitled 'Herbarium Pomeranicum - digitalization and accessibility of herbarium collections of academic institutions of Pomerania through their connection and digital accessibility.', will combine resources gathered by four Pomeranian herbaria. In this way, approximately half a million plant and fungi specimens will be added to the virtual collection. Anyone interested will have easy and quick access to the collection. The project is financed under the Digital Poland Operational Programme. Its total value is over PLN 25 million.

Herbarium, or zielnik in Polish, is a collection of plant and fungi specimens arranged, described and classified according to specific criteria. The term is also used for scientific institutions dealing with the collection, research and storage of all types of botanical and mycological (fungi and lichen) collections.

- 'Currently, there are more than 4,000 herbaria in 165 countries worldwide, in which more than 350 million specimens are stored. Their list and registration is maintained by Index Herbariorum, a catalogue organised and managed by the New York Botanical Garden,' says dr Przemysław Baranow from the Faculty of Biology, University of Gdańsk, one of the project contractors. - 'In Poland, there are about 30 herbaria with a total of about 2 million specimens registered. However, most of these collections are not currently available digitally. The University of Gdańsk is one of the first in Poland to take such action.'

The project is implemented in partnership with three universities: the University of Gdańsk, Pomeranian Academy in Słupsk and the University of Szczecin. It assumes merging of four currently functioning Pomeranian herbaria (Herbarium Universitatis Gedanensis - UGDA, owned by the University of Gdańsk, Herbarium Slupensis - SLTC, owned by the Pomeranian Academy in Słupsk, Herbarium Stetinensis - SZUB, and Szczecin Collection of Diatoms - SZCZ, owned by the University of Szczecin) into one virtual and online herbarium collection.

Herbarium Pomeranicum will provide access not only to the collection of dry plant and fungi specimens, but also, among others, to the collection of tree stems in leafless state, flowers preserved in alcohol, analytical drawings of species quoted in African and Neotropical floras, as well as unique botanical literature, e.g. several editions of Linnaeus' fundamental work Systema vegetabilium (from the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century), or floras of Polish lands (e.g. Jundziłł from the beginning of the 19th century, or Wagi from the middle of the 19th century).

- 'The creation of the virtual Pomeranian herbarium will make it possible to make extremely valuable botanical and mycological collections from Pomerania, as well as many other regions of the world, available to scientists worldwide, as well as state administration, government services, teachers, students and all those interested in plants and fungi. In total, nearly 500,000 specimens will be scanned and made available online,' - emphasizes dr P. Baranow.

The role of herbaria as sources of data on natural resources is extremely important. As botanists emphasize, the herbarium material plays a key role in assessing the degree of species threat when developing programs for the preservation of biodiversity. It is also the only form of documentation of specimens of typical and very rare plant species. Importantly, herbaria also make it possible to study the chemical composition of plants and fungi for their properties relevant to medicine and the fight against human diseases.

- 'Herbaria continue to grow in importance worldwide. They offer new opportunities for synthetic research that can solve important societal problems related to climate change, food security and environmental protection, among others. The world's largest herbaria have long promoted their collections, and with digitisation and technological advances in imaging, molecular biology and genetics, herbaria are becoming more scientifically valuable,' says Dr Baranov. - 'By creating Herbarium Pomeranicum, thus digitally linking and making publicly available the collections of four Pomeranian herbaria, we will join the global trend in biodiversity research.'

Access to the Herbarium Pomeranicum platform will be free of charge. To search and browse through the herbarium resources, you will have to meet just one condition - having access to the Internet.

The project is implemented under the Operational Programme Digital Poland 2014-2020, Submeasure: 2.3.1 Digital access to public sector information from administrative sources and scientific resources. Its total value is PLN 25,065,886, the European co-financing under POPC is PLN 21,213,259.49 gros

EMW/Press Office of University of Gdańsk