A major untapped pool of undiscovered flowering plant species may be natural history collections, according to a paper recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Based on a survey of 3,200 plant species, the studyâ€™s authors found that only 16% of species were described within five years of collection; nearly one quarter of species were described more than 50 years after they were collected.Â The authors estimate that more than 35,000 plant species are likely to be â€˜discoveredâ€™ in herbaria collections within the new few decades.
Some members of the study attribute the potential for discovery of new species within collections to a lack of trained taxonomists and resources.Â Dr. Mark Carine of London’s Natural History Museum told BBC News: â€œLack of manpower and lack of expertise is obviously a major issue here. Â There’s no doubt we just don’t have enough people to complete the process as rapidly as we might like.â€
To read the study, visit http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/12/01/1011841108.Â To read the BBCâ€™s coverage, visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11913076.