DNA Barcoding

The New York Botanical Garden Forest:

A Floristic Approach

to Identifying a DNA Barcode for Plants

 

 

Introduction

 

The familiar back and white "barcode" label that is present on virtually all commercially sold products was developed as the "universal product code system (UPC)." This pattern of black lines on a white background, with various possibilities at each position, allows for billions of alternative products to be uniquely identified and tracked. In the same manner, a short segment of DNA sequence composed of varying patterns of A,C,G,T nucleotides should be able to identify different species of organism from one another. Potential applications of DNA barcodes are numerous. The Consortium for the Barcode of Life has created a pamphlet entitled Barcoding Life: Ten Reasons. Among these are that a DNA barcode can 1) identify an organism from only a small fragment of tissue rather than requiring the entire organism; 2) works at all stages of life, from seed to adult; 3) unmasks look-alike species; 4) demonstrates the value of natural history collections; and 5) optimistically opens the ways for a handheld "Life Barcoder" that could be carried into the field in the future.

The Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) is an international assemblage of scientists from universities, museums, botanical gardens, zoos, and similar organizations who are interested in cataloging all of Earth's biodiversity with a DNA barcode. The New York Botanical Garden has been a member of the consortium from its founding. Dr. Barbara Thiers, Director of the Botanical Garden's William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, and Dr. Dennis Stevenson, Vice President for Laboratory Science, attended the first meeting of the consortium in Washington, DC in 2004. Dr. Kenneth Cameron, Director of The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Program for Molecular Systematics Studies, together with Dr. Stevenson subsequently attended the second meeting in London, where Dr. Cameron became directly involved with the Plant Working Group of the CBOL. Dr. Cameron serves as one of a dozen Principal Investigators from around the world who are working together on the CBOL Plant Working Group's endeavor to identify an appropriate plant DNA barcode by January 2007. That project's funding was provided equally by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

 

DNA Barcoding The New York Botanical Garden Forest

In parallel with the CBOL Plant Working Group's endeavor, the Botanical Garden was awarded a grant by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to carry out a floristically-oriented proof of principle project, complementary to the CBOL's phylogenetically-oriented project.

 

The proposed project entails DNA barcoding every species of vascular plant native or naturalized within the 50-acre Forest of The New York Botanical Garden. Dr. Michael Nee, Associate Curator in the Institute of Systematic Botany, has prepared a checklist of these plants (approximately 343 species in 246 genera from 98 families are still extant), which represent an 8% subset of all species within the Gleason and Cronquist Manual of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. Dr. Nee's The Native and Naturalized Flora of The New York Botanical Garden includes all native and naturalized plants growing on the grounds of the New York Botanical Garden. This unpublished checklist is based mainly on the observations of during the years 1991-1994, plus some additional notes from earlier years.

 

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For more information contact: Dr. Ken Cameron

 

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