Digital Flora of New Guinea
New Guinea is one of the most diverse areas in the tropics with 15,000 to 25,000 species of plants (possibly as many as 30,000 species). Despite being a global biodiversity hotspot and one of the major tropical wilderness areas of the world, this is one of the most poorly-collected regions of Melanesia. Many of the plant species are endemic (in some families over 90 percent). The majority of the species are so poorly known that they can have little impact on our understanding of New Guinea ecosystems and consequently on sustainable management and conservation.
With long isolation from other landforms and many unique habitats, speciation events have contributed to the high endemism of this island. The same characteristics that make New Guinea a special place also mean that without adequate conservation planning, human encroachment may cause a huge loss of species in the future. Many plant species are listed as threatened or endangered (264 species in Papua New Guinea alone) by The World Conservation Union’s IUCN Red List (2007).
Conservation organizations and other stakeholders in the future of New Guinea’s biodiversity management need a comprehensive website to view primary, voucher-based, georeferenced collection data to inform targeting of species, site, and corridor conservation planning. The Digital Flora of New Guinea (started December 2007) will provide just such a resource. We will be incorporating more researchers' data in the coming months.