Article

Flora of Australia launch

The much anticipated new digital platform Flora of Australia was launched today by project partners the Department of the Environment and Energy (specifically the Australian Biological Resources Study, ABRS), the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (CHAH) and the ALA as part of the Systematics 2017 conference at The University of Adelaide.

The new digital Flora of Australia www.ausflora.org.au platform launched today provides up-to-date authoritative information on the names, characteristics, distribution and habitat of Australian plants.

The much anticipated new digital platform Flora of Australia was launched today by project partners the Department of the Environment and Energy (specifically the Australian Biological Resources Study, ABRS), the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (CHAH) and the ALA as part of the Systematics 2017 conference at The University of Adelaide.

Flora of Australia is a synthesis of taxonomic knowledge of the country’s flora and represents a momentous collaborative effort among taxonomists in Australia and New Zealand. It is designed for anyone wanting authoritative information on the names, characteristics, distribution and habitat of Australian plants.

The new digital platform integrates a wide range of botanical information such as nomenclature, distribution maps, images, biodiversity data, and identification keys, sourced from the National Species List, Australia’s Virtual Herbarium, Keybase, Australian Plant Image Index, and the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA).

Flora of Australia is the leading authoritative source for Australia’s plant biodiversity information. It is an essential resource for plant identification, and provides vital information that underpins decision making for national and international biodiversity conservation, threatened species and biosecurity management activities. 

For many decades, Flora of Australia was produced as a hard copy book series. It required considerable time and resources to produce and was often out of date by the time it went to print.

ABRS, CHAH and the ALA understood the benefits of moving Flora of Australia to a digital platform and the ALA provided the digital infrastructure, hosting requirements and technical expertise necessary to make it happen. The ALA was launched in 2007 as part of the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) and within 10 years has become a world-leader in digital biodiversity infrastructure.

The launch of the Flora of Australia digital platform. From left: John la Salle, Director, ALA; Dr Judy West, Assistant Secretary, Parks Island and Biodiversity Science, Department of the Environment and Energy; and Prof. Michelle Waycott, HBS Womersley Chair in Systematic Botany, University of Adelaide.

The Flora of Australia digital platform enables direct contributions online, faster publication of biodiversity information, greater collaboration, and open access to data. The information is now more accessible, more user-friendly, easier to navigate through the classification, and can be updated more rapidly. It also includes innovative features such as an ability to filter the national Flora of Australia coverage to targeted geographic areas.

Flora of Australia dynamically links a range of Australian biodiversity informatics resources to help deliver robust scientific information about Australia’s native and naturalised plants. Approximately 14 000 taxon profiles are now available in Flora of Australia, including treatments previously published in the hard copy series. Nearly 500 new taxon profiles have been added in draft form (not publicly accessible) and will be progressively published.

This project assists Australia to meet Target 1 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), ‘An online flora of all known plants’. Data from Flora of Australia will be gradually contributed to the World Flora Online.

The launch was hosted by Dr Judy West, Assistant Secretary, Parks Island and Biodiversity Science, Department of the Environment and Energy. For more information visit Flora of Australia online www.ausflora.org.au or contact Anthony Whalen, General Manager, ABRS, anthony.whalen@environment.gov.au or ALA info@ala.org.au .

The CSIRO blog CSIROscope also covered this story: Petals to pixels: the prestigious leaves of Flora of Australia turn digital.