PESHAWAR: The Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Sindh, Jamshoro organised a three-day international workshop on digitisation and geo-referencing of herbaria and botanical gardens in Pakistan.

The event was organised by the efforts of Dr Rabia Asma Memon who was focal person of the workshop as well. The event was organised in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Mary E. Barkworth of Intermountain Herbarium, Utah State University, Logan, United States. Along with Mary E. Barkworth other resource persons were Dr. Ghulam Sarwar Markhand from Shah Abdul Latif University Khairpur, Dr. Ishtique from Islamia College University, Peshawar, Dr. Aliya from University of Karachi and Dr. Abdul Rasheed from University of Peshawar.

Experts said that plants are basic source of livelihood in any region of the world providing ecosystem services in diverse forms including clean air, pure water, and healthy food. They said 98 percent people of remote areas rely on the benefits of plants and obviously, Pakistan, particularly Sindh, has great diversity of plants, many of them to be documented yet.

Plant scientists gather data about plant species and preserve them, after drying and mounting on a paper sheet, into special places called herbaria. The herbaria are unique repositories that provide all information regarding the plant stored there. Although, plant herbaria have been established that store great data of plant specimen but still there is no qualitative and quantitative statistical data, which can be used further for national planning for plants and its further utilisation for diverse purposes.

Besides the role as repositories, herbaria and botanical gardens also work as libraries for research, which need data analysis and sharing. Usually classical manual methods of information sharing do exist which need a lot of energy, travel and financial input. Information Technology has provided a more effective and easy accessibility for retrieval of plant data available in herbaria and botanical gardens.

The workshop demonstrated how digitisation takes the images, indicates the exact location on a geographical map and documentation of relevant data, which can be stored in open herbarium maintained by the central server.

The participants were taken to a far-flung area of Ranikot situated in Khirther National Park at 100km from University of Sindh where the field demonstrations were held using GPS and photographic kits for getting real data.  The resource persons shared their views with the participants regarding climate change, food security, data mobilisation and establishment of a network to be used at national and foreign herbaria. The Workshop was sponsored by University of Sindh and Higher Education commission Islamabad.