Publication details

The colonial legacy of herbaria


PARK Daniel S S FENG Xiao AKIYAMA Shinobu ARDIYANI Marlina AVENDANO Neida BARINA Zoltan BAERTSCHI Blandine BELGRANO Manuel BETANCUR Julio BIJMOER Roxali BOGAERTS Ann CANO Asuncion DANIHELKA Jiří GARG Arti GIBLIN David E. E. GOGOI Rajib GUGGISBERG Alessia HYVAERINEN Marko JAMES Shelley A. A. SEBOLA Ramagwai J. J. KATAGIRI Tomoyuki KENNEDY Jonathan A .A. KOMIL Tojibaev Sh LEE Byoungyoon LEE Serena M. L. MAGRI Donatella MARCUCCI Rossella MASINDE Siro MELNIKOV Denis MRAZ Patrik MULENKO Wieslaw MUSILI Paul MWACHALA Geoffrey NELSON Burrell E. E. NIEZGODA Christine CARLA Novoa Sepulveda ORLI Sylvia PATON Alan PAYETTE Serge PERKINS Kent D D PONCE Maria Jimena RAINER Heimo RASINGAM L. RUSTIAMI Himmah SHIYAN Natalia M M BJORA Charlotte Sletten SOLOMON James STAUFFER Fred SUMADIJAYA Alex THIEBAUT Melanie THIERS Barbara M M TSUBOTA Hiromi VAUGHAN Alison VIRTANEN Risto WHITFELD Timothy J S ZHANG Dianxiang ZULOAGA Fernando O O DAVIS Charles C C

Year of publication 2023
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Nature Human Behaviour
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Keywords Humans; Plants; Surveys and Questionnaires
Description Herbarium collections shape our understanding of Earth's flora and are crucial for addressing global change issues. Their formation, however, is not free from sociopolitical issues of immediate relevance. Despite increasing efforts addressing issues of representation and colonialism in natural history collections, herbaria have received comparatively less attention. While it has been noted that the majority of plant specimens are housed in the Global North, the extent and magnitude of this disparity have not been quantified. Here we examine the colonial legacy of botanical collections, analysing 85,621,930 specimen records and assessing survey responses from 92 herbarium collections across 39 countries. We find an inverse relationship between where plant diversity exists in nature and where it is housed in herbaria. Such disparities persist across physical and digital realms despite overt colonialism ending over half a century ago. We emphasize the need for acknowledging the colonial history of herbarium collections and implementing a more equitable global paradigm for their collection, curation and use.

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