At the UK's Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Gardens, you'll find more than 250 plant and fungi species discovered by their botanists, including: giant rainforest trees, gorgeous rare orchids, spectacular palms, minute fungi, wild coffee species, and even an ancient aquatic plant. To celebrate the botanical organisation’s 250th year, they’re making information about these new species available for nature-lovers and curious web explorers via Google Maps and Google Earth. Kew has mapped all 250 of the newly discovered species on this special Google Earth layer:www.kew.org/science/new-discoveries/250-species.kml.
The new species come from a wide-range of fascinating locations, including botanical frontiers such as Ecuador, Madagascar, the Amazon, Cameroon, New Guinea, Mozambique, Amazon, and the heart of Borneo. Nearly a third are believed to be in danger of extinction.
Following in the footsteps of their famous botanical predecessors such as Sir Joseph Banks, Sir Joseph Hooker, and Charles Darwin, taxonomic botanists at the Royal Botanic Gardens continue to explore and study the world’s plant and fungal diversity, making astonishing discoveries every year. Their work involves a combination of fieldwork in remote and exotic parts of the world, and research in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s Herbarium, a vast scientific collection of over seven million dried plants specimens, perhaps the largest of its kind in the world. This work has never been more relevant and pressing than in the current era of global climate change and unprecedented loss of biodiversity – especially as we count down to the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity in 2010.
We spoke to the team at Kew (whose stunning grounds you can also explore on Street View by the way!), and they told us that there is so much of the plant world yet to be discovered and documented – and that by using Google Earth they can highlight this to the public. Steve Bachman, a Plant Conservation Analyst, says he believes Google Earth and Google Maps have revolutionised the way Kew presents this important plant and conservation data to decision makers, scientists and the general public. After all, in order to promote conservation, you need to know what's out there and where it's found.
We’re thrilled to see the folks at Kew sharing their intricate and important work of plant and species identification via our mapping technology and look forward to hearing about more new discoveries we're sure they'll be making in the coming year!