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Data from: The unrealized potential of herbaria in global change biology

Cite this dataset

Meineke, Emily K.; Davis, Charles C.; Davies, T. Jonathan (2018). Data from: The unrealized potential of herbaria in global change biology [Dataset]. Dryad.


Plant and fungal specimens in herbaria are becoming primary resources for investigating how plant phenology and geographic distributions shift with climate change, greatly expanding inferences across spatial, temporal, and phylogenetic dimensions. However, these specimens contain a wealth of additional data—including nutrients, defensive compounds, herbivore damage, disease lesions, and signatures of physiological processes—that capture ecological and evolutionary responses to the Anthropocene but which are less frequently utilized. Here, we outline the diversity of herbarium data, global change topics to which they have been applied, and new hypotheses they could inform. We find that herbarium data have been used extensively to study impacts of climate change and invasive species, but that such data are less commonly used to address other drivers of biodiversity loss, including habitat conversion, pollution, and overexploitation. In addition, we note that fungal specimens are under-explored relative to vascular plants. To facilitate broader application of plant and fungal specimens in global change research, we consider the limitations of these data and modern sampling and statistical tools that may be applied to surmount challenges they present. Using a case study of insect herbivory, we illustrate how novel herbarium data may be employed to test hypotheses for which few data exist. With the goal of positioning herbaria as hubs for global change research, we suggest future research directions and curation priorities.

Usage notes


National Science Foundation, Award: 1611880