LAUNCH OF HERBARIUM PUBLICATION
 UPDATING THE FLORA OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

On the 27th  May, 2016 the National Herbarium of Trinidad and Tobago (TRIN), in conjunction with the Department of Life Sciences, launched its publication  ‘An annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Trinidad & Tobago with analysis of vegetation types and botanical ‘hotspots’ by Yasmin Baksh-Comeau, Shobha Maharaj, C. Dennis Adams, Stephen A. Harris, Denis L. Filer and William D. Hawthorne.  This ‘checklist’ provides:

  • the most comprehensive account of the vascular flora of Trinidad and Tobago to date, including 262 species of grasses recorded for the islands are published here for the first time. 
  • additional new species records not listed in the previously-published parts of the flora
  • Endemic and near endemic species
  • The conservation status of each species, including a Star Rating of its global status and an IUCN rating of its risk of extinction
  • common names of species were known
  • habit, habitat, biogeography and the plant community/s where each species occurs
  • a selection of vouchered specimens, housed at the National Herbarium of Trinidad and Tobago (TRIN), The British Museum of Natural History (BM), the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (K) and Oxford University (OU) England and other online databases.

It was one of two final deliverables of the UK funded /Darwin Initiative project in collaboration with Oxford University and the UWI, and executed by the TRIN herbarium to undertake a national botanical inventory to develop A Biodiversity Monitoring System for Trinidad and Tobago. The purpose of this project was to build and maintain capacity in T&T to monitor habitats, detect changes in plant populations and measure the effects of management.

This project spanned the period September 2005 to August 2008 and participation involved plant ecologists and Taxonomist Drs William Hawthorne and Stephen Harris respectively from Oxford University, UK, the staff of the TRIN Herbarium, along with a team of volunteers, 29 Forest officers, who assisted Ms. Shobha Maharaj, Research Officer, who conducted the survey of 240 sites from which over 22,000 specimen samples were collected. These specimens were then processed, identified, databased and analysed and integrated into this publication. Once processed the duplicates of many of these specimens have been dispatched to herbaria such as K, BM, OU, Smithsonian Institution (US), New Botanical Gardens (NY), Herbario Nacional de Venezuela (VEN), Missouri Botanic Gardens (MO), Herbier National de Paris (P) and Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Cuba (C) as gifts from TRIN.

The second deliverable was the launch of The Virtual Field Herbarium of Trinidad & Tobago using the BRAHMS (Botanical Research And Herbarium Management System) software developed by Denis Filer at Oxford University.  Digitization of the TRIN herbarium collection, as well as, the new specimens from the field survey were databased into BRAHMS.  This database upgraded TRIN’s ability to manage its reference collection and disseminate information to its local and international clientele.  It can be accessed via the Online Database link.

At the launch, representatives of various local environmental groups, the university community and specially invited guests were given a thorough explanation of this project and its significance by guest speakers Professor John Agard who gave a ‘Review of the Checklist and its Relevance to Biodiversity Conservation ‘followed by Mr. Carlton Roberts, Director of the Forestry Resource and Inventory Management (FRIM) who spoke about ‘The Role of FRIM in the Conservation of Biodiversity in Trinidad and Tobago’ and a video presentation by Dr. Shobha Maharaj who paid tribute to the Forest Officers who participated in the project.  The final presentation was done by the Curator and principal author of the ‘Checklist’, Mrs. Yasmin Baksh-Comeau, who offered an ‘Insight into the Publication of the Checklist’.  Afterwards, a demonstration of the Virtual Herbarium was given by Miss Keisha Manaure, Research Technician, and the audience was further ‘treated’ with a live link-up with Mr. Dennis Filer at Oxford who discussed the capabilities of the software.

The ‘Checklist’ can be purchased online through the link: http://www.mapress.com/j/pt/article/view/phytotaxa.250.1.1 or a limited number of printed copy available at the Herbarium for the price of TT$650.00.

Images of the event can be viewed at https://flic.kr/s/aHskBTcDPd