, Volume 12, Issue 7, pp 1537-1552

Defining a role for herbarium data in Red List assessments: a case study of Plectranthus from eastern and southern tropical Africa

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Abstract

Red Lists are widely used to indicate species at risk of extinction. Specimen sheets in herbaria provide an important source of data relevant for Red List assessments. The aims of this paper are to establish which data can be sourced from specimen information to satisfy IUCN Red Data List criteria and to identify the specific criteria that can be used. Red List parameters are measured within a Geographical Information System (GIS), as this provides an objective and repeatable methodology which is less subjective than manual methods. Data used to explore this were gathered during the course of preparing a monograph on Plectranthus (Lamiaceae). Criteria relating to distribution (extent of occurrence, area of occupancy and fragmentation) and population profile (projected continuing decline and number of subpopulations) proved most suitable for assigning categories of threat. Estimates of mature individuals, generation length, population size, population reduction, extreme fluctuation and number of locations could not be derived from herbarium material without making inconsistent subjective decisions. In addition to comprehensively databased specimen information, extensive field knowledge is required to produce better estimates for assessing extinction risk. In order to enhance the usefulness of specimen information in the future, improvements in recording additional botanical data at the time of collection would be beneficial. Overall, herbaria provide a useful starting point for conservation-related work and can help to guide future work.