Biodiversity: Artificial intelligence at the service of safeguarding plant heritage

Tunisia has about 2;700 plant species. However, data on these plants is scarce and difficult to access for the general public.

With this in mind, a project to digitise the herbarium of the National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia (INAT) was launched in April 2019.

It is a project financed by the Global Environment Facility’s Microfinance Programme (GEF/MFP) and is part of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

It is implemented in the framework of a collaboration between the sustainable development association “Research in Action (REACT)”, Tunisia Ecotourism Network (TEN), the National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia (INAT), the Faculty of Sciences of Tunis (FST) and WWF-North Africa.

“The actions undertaken consist of the rehabilitation of more than 6,000 beds of the INAT herbarium representing 2,400 taxa (species, subspecies and varieties) from old collections made throughout the country before 1956 or recent collections, and the development of a database containing for each taxa its updated nomenclature in accordance with internationally recognised designations, the place and date of its collection, as well as the name of the collector, and also the layout of the herbarium room according to international standards for the conservation and safeguarding of herbarium beds”, Mrs Ghrabi-Gammar Zeineb, Vice-President of REACT and Professor of Botany at INAT, told TAP.

“Given the massive amount of data and the absence of a data centre at INAT, “An agreement is being drawn up with IRESA for the storage of data collected from the scans of the beds while guaranteeing free online consultation for anyone interested in these scans and related information”, Ms Ghrabi-Gammar added.

According to her, the INAT herbarium, once digitised, will be a very useful research tool for accessing botanical knowledge on Tunisia’s flora.

This digitised herbarium has a role in the development of scientific research in botany, particularly in systematics, plant biology, ecology … It will also promote several sectors of activity, including research for active phytocompounds to be developed, in organic agriculture, phytotherapy, phytoremediation …, she explained.

TunisianMonitorOnline (TAP)

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