Digitization of Caribbean Plants and Fungi in The New York Botanical Garden Herbarium

Barbara M. Thiers and Brian Boom

This project has resulted in the digitization of almost 200,000 specimens of dried specimens of algae, bryophytes, fungi (including lichens) and vascular plants from the Caribbean region held by The William and Lynda Steere Herbarium of The New York Botanical Garden, completing the digitization of the entire holdings of 300,000 specimens from the region. Herbarium specimens are the fundamental source of information on the earth’s vegetation, past and present, and there is no larger single source of such information for the Caribbean region than the Steere Herbarium. The Caribbean region contains many unique habitats and species, and these habitats are critically endangered. The data provided by this project will be essential to documenting the plants and fungi of the region. This project can aid conservation efforts by indicating areas of diversity for protection, supplementing the distributional profile of individual species in order to document their conservation status, and tracking the spread of invasive species. The countries of the region can use these data to serve as the nucleus of new projects that will provide training and employment for regional biologists.