New challenges for natural history collections

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The status of natural history collections at universities have been evaluated many times during the second half of the last century. These evaluations have resulted in reduced financial support in different ways. The cause of the reduced financial support in different ways. The cause of the reduced support generally lies in the decreased use of collections in education and research. Among the natural history collections at Swedish universities, which were first made separate unites, was the museum of Evolution in Uppsala in 1999 followed by the Botanical Museum and the Museum of Zoology at Lund University in 2002. In natural history collections in the world there are enormous amounts of biological material. This unique material of collected animals, plants or other organisms has been estimated to comprise 1-3 billions of different specimens. The information attached to this mass of collected specimens will, if made available on the internet, provide us with the necessary tools to estimate the diversity of the earth's c. 1.5 million known organisms. Today we have he necessary techniques for carrying out this commission, such as digital cameras, powerful computers, advanced software to handle and distribute data on the Internet. It should, however, be stressed that personnel resources are needed to transform the information from collections into databases. The work on databases has already started in many countries. At the large natural history collections in Sweden the work is in progress, especially through the certain program on biodiversity launched by the Government in 2001. This program includes support for natural history collections in connection to the new Swedish Taxonomy Initiative. The research council FORMAS granted financial support to projects from national collections, mainly concerning work on databases. These collections have an enormous potential value for research on biodiversity, but there is also a need for restoration, keeping and enlarging the collections. It is of great importance that the natural history collections are granted continuous financial support for the commission they have started on.
Translated title of the contributionNya utmaningar för naturvetenskapliga samlingar
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-15
JournalFauna och Flora: populär tidskrift för biologi
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Ecology
  • Botany


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