The government has announced £15 million of funding to digitise the plant and fungal specimens at Kew Gardens, reshaping climate change research.
The Herbarium is the world’s largest collection of its kind, housing more than 8 million specimens that date back to 170 years and include specimens collected by Charles Darwin.
The move will allow researchers from across the globe to access the historic collection for free and without having to leave their laboratories.
Its digitisation will not only prevent emissions from transportation or travel to and from the Herbarium but will also prevent the deterioration with age or its loss from unfortunate events such as fires.
Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Simon Clarke MP, commented: “This vital investment will revolutionise research to combat climate change and biodiversity loss.
“By digitising this unique collection, the largest of plant and fungal specimens in the world, we are opening up a vast stockpile of data which will seed a forest of vital research projects across the planet.”
Richard Deverell, Director of Kew Gardens, added: “I am absolutely delighted that the British Government has committed £15m towards the digitisation of Kew’s plant collections and to secure them for future generations through the construction of a new collections laboratory.
“These collections represent knowledge of plant and fungal diversity that will help scientists around the world conserve nature and find solutions to some of the most critical challenges facing humanity.”