biodiversity

Unbelievable. A rare herbarium in the National Museum of Natural History destroyed by Australian Customs.

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More than one hundred specimens of flowering plants, dating from the 19th century and belonging to the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, were destroyed by Australian Customs in charge of biosecurity.
 
C’is this incredible story revealed in the daily newspaper The GuardianMonday, May 8th. These plants, which date back to the 19th century, had been sent to the herbarium in Brisbane (Queensland, Australia) last March. A total of 105 specimens have thus disappeared. "An irreparable loss," deplored Michel Guiraud, director of the Museum's collections, to the micro de franceinfo.
The plants in question dated from the mid-19th century and some of them were truly unique. In the herbariums sent to the Brisbane Herbarium were indeed " six type specimens, i.e. reference specimens, which bear absolutely all the criteria for describing a plant ", explains Michel Guiraud.

What happened?

Australian colleagues from the Museum of Natural History in Paris (MNHN) had requested in December 2016 the loan of this herbarium for research purposes. This is a common practice, essential for researchers around the world. The plants are therefore shipped in February. However, in mid-March, Australian researchers warned their MNHN counterparts that "[t]hese plants will be shipped in February. there were missing quarantine documents "to get through customs. These documents certify that there are no microbes or other micro-organisms in the specimens. A document designed for live plants and not for herbaria. But either, French researchers do it by sending the famous document.
 
A few days later, as an answer, they learned that their precious plants had been " destroyed without discussion or warning ". " The quarantine department said the papers were not in compliance. Their only response was to destroy the plants without even looking for an alternative. "says Michelle Waycott, chair of the Council of Australian Herbalists, in The Guardian.
The Brisbane Herbarium assures us that, like the MNHN, it has taken all the necessary precautions. A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, quoted by The Guardian, cited a " communications snag "and stated that " the documents had not been received ", before acknowledging that the plants should not have been destroyed.

An irreparable loss

In Brisbane as in Paris, specialists agree that the destruction of these plants is a loss." considerable "and" multi-period irreparable ". " Scientifically, this means that we have destroyed biodiversity indices from 200 years ago, which are important for studying climate change. ", explains Michel Guiraud. « It is also a huge loss for heritage, because these are public collections. "he points out.
 
These plants also had historical value. Some of them " had been collected by botanist Jacques-Julien de La Billardière... ", left on a mission to find the traces of the La Pérouse expedition, which disappeared in the Pacific Ocean in 1788. « There are some very old or difficult to access specimens that may no longer exist today.details Michelle Waycott. That's why it's so bad.. »
 
Little consolation, thanks to the digitization of its herbarium, the Museum has at least "images of the destroyed plants". In any case, Michel Giraud warns: "We will suspend lending until we know whether these are isolated incidents or whether the country's procedures pose a real threat to our collections.
 
 

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