The Martius Project
- Biodiversity in Brazil
- Martius' herbarium collections and the 'Herbarium Martii'
- The Flora Brasiliensis
- Reasons to digitizing Martius' herbarium specimens ('Herbarium Martii') and the Flora Brasiliensis
- Aim of the project
- How does the project fit into a larger framework?
- Literature Cited
Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius (1794-1868) was one of the most famous naturalists of the nineteenth century. From 1817 to 1821 he explored Brazil, with the zoologist Spix. During that period he collected more than 10,000 herbarium specimens that are now housed in the Botanische Staatssammlung, Muenchen, Germany. Importantly, von Martius' trip was the first to inspire academic interest in Brazil's rich flora.
Martius quickly became an expert on palms and published three volumes of the Historia Naturalis Palmarum between 1823 and 1850. Additionally, he co-founded, with Endlicher, the magnificent Flora Brasiliensis, a monographical flora series. During his life time 46 fascicles were published, the remaining were completed later by Eichler and Urban in 1906 making a total of 130 volumes.
Von Martius' private botanical collection grew, by purchase and exchange, to become one of the most important private herbaria of the nineteenth century. When he died, it contained ca. 300,000 specimens representing 65,000 species from all over the world. Approximately half of them came from the Amazon Basin. The Herbarium Martii was acquired by the Belgian government in 1870 and formed the beginning of a world collection for the then newly established Jardin botanique de l'Etat. The entire archive, with detailed lists for many of von Martius' acquisitions, is now conserved in the National Botanic Garden of Belgium.
In this age of advancing technology it is possible to make species information and herbarium material more available to the academic community by placing it on the Internet. The project 'Prototype Image Server to Integrate the Martius' Herbarium and the Digital Flora Brasiliensis' aims to do just this. It represents an inter-institutional feasibility study within Work Package 13 of the European Network for Biodiversity Information. Initially this project focuses on eight pilot groups. From these groups, all historical type specimens of Brazilian taxa have been imaged and databased along with the texts and plates of the Flora Brasiliensis. Specimens, images, plates and texts are cross-linked and currently accessible on the Internet.
Biodiversity in Brazil
From the point of view of biodiversity, Brazil is probably the richest country on earth and almost certainly possesses the richest angiosperm flora (Groombridge 1992, Shepherd 2000). It is believed to acount for up to 20% of all vascular plant species on earth. Despite this, there has been no update of the Brazilian flora. In fact the only completed flora is von Martius' Flora Brasiliensis from the nineteenth century the last volume of which was published in 1906. In total this Flora describes around 23,000 species.
The number of described species found in the area has now escalated to at least 35,000 (Govaerts 2001). Many new species are described each year, especially in areas that have been previously under collected such as the Amazonian Basin and Atlantic Rain Forest. The common accession of new species has lead to estimates for total species to range somewhere between 40,000 to more than 100,000. One thing is for sure, many species are yet to be described while the delimitation for many previously described taxa published in Flora Brasiliensis have changed. It is therefore a matter of urgency that, a detailed knowledge of the flora and its distribution is necessary if we want to preserve our most diverse and essential ecosystem.
Much of the Brazilian flora is at present poorly known taxonomically; it therefore requires careful taxonomic revision and/or detailed monographic treatment. This work is essential since many species are yet to be described or are only known from a very limited number of collections. Moreover, in many cases species are known only from a single collection and have never been recollected.
Despite considerable improvements achieved in sampling density and coverage (Prance 2001) within the Amazon Basin, much work remains, considerable areas (mainly in Amazonia, but also in other parts of the country) are still seriously under collected or have never received the attention of collectors. Many of these locations are very remote and difficult to reach, even in relatively well-known regions such as south-eastern Brazil.
Martius' herbarium collections and the 'Herbarium Martii'
Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius (°1794 Erlangen - †1868) is one of the most famous naturalists of the nineteenth century. At the age of sixteen he received a herbaria containing 5000 specimens from his father and brother. This encouraged him to collect plants from the vicinity of his home and from the nearby botanic garden of Erlangen. He studied botany with Schreber, one of the late students of Carl Von Linné. von Martius was one of the first botanists to explore the Amazonian Basin travelling in this region between 1817 and 1821 accompanied by the zoologist Spix. During this period he collected between 10000 and 20000 specimens, often species that were new to science. This trip had a big impact on von Martius' life. In the following decades he decided to concentrate his future scientific effort on the tropics of the New World. As a consequence, his private herbarium collection was much enriched with Brazilian specimens sent to him by other collectors.
The specimens collected by von Martius during his trip to Brazil (plus 800 specimens acquired later) are deposited in the 'Botanische Staatssammlung Muenchen' in Germany, unfortunetly, almost no duplicates of this material are deposited in Brazilian institutes.
Von Martius' botanical collection (Known as the Herbarium Martii) grew, by purchase and exchange, to become one of the largest private herbaria in the world (collectors of Brazilian specimens in von Martius' private herbarium include: Ackerman, Allemao, Barboza, Blanchet, Burchell, Claussen, Manso da Silva, Don, Freyreiss, Gardner, Glaziou, Harrison, Helmreichen, Houllet, Joannes de S. Barbara, Kalkman, von Karwinski, Lindeberg, Luschnath, Menke, Mikan, Peckolt, Pohl, Poeppig, Raben, Raddi, Regnell, Riedel, Salzmann, Schornbaum, Schornbaum, Schott, Schüch de Capanema, , Sello, Sieber, Spruce, Stephan, Wied, White, Widgren). When von Martius died, his herbarium contained ca. 300,000 specimens collected from all around the world (Eichler 1869); Approximately one third of these were collected from the Amazon Basin.
The Herbarium Martii was acquired by the Belgian government in 1870 (Bommer 1871, Spring 1871 - not cited in references) and formed the beginning of a worldwide herbarium collection for the then newly established Jardin botanique de l'Etat. The archives of the Herbarium Martii, with an "Elenchus collectionum botanicarum in herbario Martii asservatarum" ("Catalogue of Botanical Collections held in the Herbarium Martii"), and detailed lists for many of von Martius' acquisitions, are also conserved in The National Botanic Garden of Belgium. For a more detailed historical account, see Förther (1994).
The Flora Brasiliensis
Von Martius became an expert on palms and published the Historia Naturalis Palmarum, (3 volumes, 1823-1850) and, initially together with Endlicher, founded and edited the magnificent and monumental Flora Brasiliensis (1840-1906), of which 46 of the 130 fascicles were published before his death. After his death the botanists Eichler and Urban completed the series. The Flora Brasiliensis is the largest flora project ever. It is the most complete flora of any Latin American country and although it is not up to date, it is still the major reference work for taxonomists working on this vegetation. Originally the Flora Brasiliensis was composed on the basis of the collections made by von Martius during his travels in Brazil (1817-1821) and by specimens acquired from other collectors. It contains nearly 23,000 species of vascular plants from "Brazil" of which many were new to science. In fact some of the species treated in the Flora are from bordering countries such as Venezuela or Peru but it was assumed at the time that such species might also occur in Brazil hence their inclusion.
Reasons to digitizing Martius' herbarium specimens ('Herbarium Martii') and the Flora Brasiliensis
The Flora Brasiliensis is based on historical herbarium specimens mainly housed in European institutes. The first volumes of the Flora were based on von Martius' own collections (currently housed at the Botanische Staatssammlung Muenchen, Germany) and specimens in his private herbarium (now in The National Botanic Garden of Belgium). Duplicates of his private collection were sent to other European and North American herbaria, however, only a small set of duplicates occurs in Brazil. Later volumes included studies from other collections, but again few duplicate specimens remained in Brazil.
This has made research difficult for Brazilian scientists and is intensified due to curatorial concerns that do not allow historical specimens to be sent on loan (or only very rarely). Unfortunately, this hinders botanists from Brazil and bordering countries who are unable to have easy access to the specimens and type specimens cited in Flora Brasiliensis. After all for any taxonomic research, access to historical collections is a great necessity.
Aim of the project
This project contributes to the development of a prototype enabling structured data management of modern online treatments of the Flora Brasiliensis. The prototype gives access in an electronic form to a selection of type specimens from the Martius' collection and to type specimens cited in the Flora Brasiliensis. The herbarium material was selected within eight pilot plant groups (Alismataceae, Bignoniaceae, Cactaceae, Clusiaceae, Onagraceae, Rutaceae, Simaroubaceae, and the genus Croton (Euphorbiaceae)). These are currently the focus of research by taxonomists at the universities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. In addition to the specimen and taxonomic databases (incorporating recent taxonomic concepts if available), this project will substantially increase access to digitized herbarium sheets, images of the related plates in Flora Brasiliensis, electronic copies of the text in the Flora, latter protologues and allow the addition of the Martius' collection. In the near future, it is anticipated that the handwritten observations (currently held at the Botanische Staatssammlung Muenchen, Germany), made by will also be added.
How does the project fit into a larger framework?
This project is part of ongoing networking efforts between Brazilian, North American (especially St. Louis and Maddison) and European herbaria, particularly the National Botanic Garden of Belgium (BR), National Herbarium of the Netherlands (L) and Herbarium Botanische Staatssammlung Muenchen, Germany (M). Its ultimate goal is to expand the digitization of Martius' collection, that was started in Munich and Leiden, to cover all relevant collections and build transparent links to a number of key illustrated works including the Flora Brasiliensis. The development of this project will build upon the following related activities:
- The joint collaborative project "Adapting Flora Brasiliensis for Internet Access" funded by CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientifico e Tecnologico) and NSF (National Science Foundation) with the participation of researchers from the State University of Campinas and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UNICAMP). This group is studying the strategy of developing a website with illustrations of Martius' Flora Brasiliensis and other important historical publications. These will be linked to digitized images of herbarium specimens and photographs of living plants. In addition names will be updated and other basic taxonomic information and interactive identification keys made available.
- The proposal "Flora Brasiliensis online" (submitted for funding) to be carried out by the Missouri Botanical Garden, and Centro de Referencia em Informaco Ambiental (CRIA) in collaboration with UNICAMP. The project will produce a prototype of the Digital Martius' Flora Brasiliensis Information System. Missouri has scanned and delivered to CRIA 53 Bignoniaceae plates while CRIA is studying the database structure and investigating different image compression software.
- The Flora Fanerogamica do Estado de Sao Paulo is funded by Fundacaode Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de Sao Paulo (FAPESP), and CNPq. There are about 226 collaborators from seven countries, belonging to 49 institutions. They have 7,500 described species, yet there are less than 1,500 type specimens in Brazilian herbaria. Specimens of historical collections were traditionally deposited in European herbaria.
- CRIA, with the support of FAPESP (Fundacaode Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de Sao Paulo) is implementing the "Species Link Project" a distributed information system to integrate data of 12 biological collections (herbaria, museums, and microbial collections) from the state of Sao Paulo. Data of major herbaria of Sao Paulo are being digitized and integrated, together they represent approximately 600,000 specimens. This project is funding the development of two software modules DiGIR (Distributed Generic Information Retrieval) and GARP (Genetic Algorithm for Rule-Set Prediction) for species distribution modeling.
- An important precursor to this project was the "Flora Brasiliensis Revisited" workshop, held in October 2002 in Indaiatuba, Brazil attended by 60 participants from seven countries.
During the project the following steps are distinguished.
- Lists of species in the Flora Brasiliensis for eight target groups
- Identification of nomenclatural types by consultation of earlier sources (protologues, historical literature etc). Writing critical notes whenever applicable
- Extracting the types from the herbaria BR, M and L
- Imaging* and databasing
- Electronically linking specimen images, database, Flora Brasiliensis images (text and plates) and critical notes
- Website design and maintenance
- All the images were made with the following specification: resolution: 600 pixels per inch, colour space: Adobe RGB (1998), color depth: 24-bit, file format: Tagged Image File Format. Kodak Q13 Colour Separation Guide and Grey Scale (CAT 152 7654) is used as color and Gray Scale targets. A transparent measure scale is putted on the specimen. The images were made on a flatbed A3 scanner (Epson Expression 1640XL).
|Total of types (incl. duplicates)||Total of types (incl. duplicates)||Types* indicated as such before the project||Types* identified as a result of the project||Total of types (incl. duplicates)|
|Onagraceae||6 (46%)||7 (54%)||15||18||3|
|Clusiaceae||29 (86%)||6 (14%)||42||111||14|
|Cactaceae||0 (0%)||2 (100%)||2||8||0|
|Alismataceae||7 (88%)||1 (12%)||12||28||2|
|Bignoniaceae||39 (39%)||61 (61%)||133||228||30|
|Rutaceae||33 (58%)||24 (42%)||85||64||9|
|Croton||63 (64%)||36 (36%)||132||124||24|
|Total||177 (56%)||137 (44%)||421||584||84|
For the eight target groups, 1089 nomenclatural types from BR, L and M were located. The table above gives details and statistics. It should be noteed that in the National Botanic Garden of Belgium (BR) the number of species, recognized as types, is doubled due to the project carried out.
Many thanks to the European Network for Biodiversity Information that have financially supported us with a grant from the Work Package 13 (EU funded network contract). Special thanks to Henrik Enghoff and Isabel Calabuig (co-ordinators of WP 13) for supporting us in this respect. Our gratitude to the different institutions and their staff for the collaboration in this project.
We are indebted to Patricia Mergen, Johan Duflost, Frédéric Wautelet and Julien Cigar of BeBIF for their assistance and support in the development of the website. BeBIF itself acknowledges support from sub-contacting funds from this particular project in the framework of ENBI WP 13 feasibility studies and from the Belgian Science Policy for their general program.
Finally, thanks to Dave Aplin, Hans-Joachim Esser, Susanne Renner and Elmar Robbrecht for proof reading the text on this website.
- Bömmer, J.-E. (1871) Notice sur le Jardin botanique de Bruxelles. Bull. Soc. Roy. Bot. Belg. 9: 418-455.
- Eichler, A.W. (1869) Das Herbarium Martii. 24 pp. München, Kgl. Hofbuchdruckerei von Dr. C. Wolf & Sohn.
- Förther, H. (1994) Die Geschichte des Martius-Herbariums: seine Brasilienkollection und Empfehlungen zur Typenwahl. Sendtnera 2: 5-24.
- Govaerts, R. (2001) How many species of seed plants are there? Taxon 50: 1085-1090.
- Groombridge, B. (1992) Global biodiversity: status of the Earth's living resources. London, Chapman & Hall.
- Prance, G.T. (2001) Discovering the plant world. Taxon 50: 345-359.
- Spring, A. (1871) Notice sur la vie et les travaux de Charles-Fréd.-Phil. von Martius. Ann. Acad. Roy. Belgique 37: 1-42.