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Bright future for national treasure houses

News Release
2 May 2005

Funding secures bright future for national treasure houses

A new long-term funding commitment to collections and databases relating to plants, insects, fungi and bacteria will help develop more sophisticated uses for these priceless information resources.

Landcare Research will receive $4.75 million dollars per year for 12 years from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, as part of the Foundation’s reinvestment in natural ecosystems. The funding comes on-stream from July.

Landcare Research holds New Zealand’s largest collections of our flora and fauna. These include the 6.5 million specimens in the New Zealand Arthropod Collection and 70,000 specimens in the New Zealand Fungal Herbarium at Tamaki. The Allan Herbarium is by far the largest plant herbarium in New Zealand, with well over half a million specimens. These collections and others are supported by many databases, which are increasingly becoming computerised and accessible online.

Landcare Research’s Research Manager, Dr David Penman, says he welcomes the long-term funding commitment, in recognition of the long-term nature of work to develop and maintain these resources.

“The collections and databases are of vital use to New Zealand. Accurate and timely descriptions and identifications of plants, insects and animals are essential for biodiversity management, biosecurity, biotechnology and maintaining knowledge of species of historical and medicinal importance to Maori.

“The funding will help Landcare Research to tailor such information to a range of users including the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Environmental Risk Management Authority, the Department of Conservation, and Maori and biotechnology interests. It will also enable us to continue working towards making all our information freely available on the Web, so it can be of use to private citizens, researchers and educational organisations.”

Dr Penman says the move to bring all these collections and the taxonomists who work on them together in one project is world-leading. “We can expect significant synergies in databasing and publications.

“The funding also encourages collaborations. For example, we have an agreement to work with The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa on research on ferns and hebes.

Dr Penman says that as well as helping increase the usefulness of information, the funding will also help increase what we know about our flora and fauna.

“Only about 15% of New Zealand’s insects have been adequately described so far, less than a third of fungi, and about 60% of our higher native plants. Our knowledge of these will be increased significantly over the 12 years.

Dr Penman says the funding will also ensure that the growing collections continue to be adequately housed in specialised housing.

“Our arthropod, fungi, and micro-organism collections have recently been shifted to new facilities, and we are expanding the plant herbarium at Lincoln.

“Our databases and collections form a treasure house of New Zealand species that we hold in trust for future generations.”

ENDS

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