Marsh Director’s Choice Publication Award

The Marsh Director’s Choice Publication Award celebrates the best scientific publication of the year relating to Botanical Science, and can be given to the author of a book, journal issue, scientific paper or article.

Rodrigo Cámara-Leret  2021 

New Guinea has the world’s richest island flora”, published in Nature in 2020.  

New Guinea is the world’s largest tropical island, and yet until the work of Rodrigo and his colleagues, there had been no known attempt to scientifically catalogue its extraordinary vascular plant diversity. The checklist they created as part of this study includes a staggering 13,634 species, 1,742 genera and 264 families. These figures suggest that New Guinea is the most floristically diverse island in the world and greatly in need of accelerated efforts to catalogue the diversity that remains unknown.  

This was a highly collaborative effort harnessing the expertise of a wide range of specialists, demonstrating that ‘international collaborative efforts using verified digital data can rapidly synthesise biodiversity information’. 

The globally distributed set of collections and datasets were crucial to the study, highlighting the imperative to digitise natural history collections. The text was accessible to multiple audiences, for example targeting both scientists and practitioners for maximum impact. 

The study highlights the importance of fieldwork and botanical science in reducing uncertainty around the problems and challenges of biodiversity loss. Rodrigo and colleagues have catalogued diversity in a highly biodiverse, low-income country with social challenges. This is exactly where botanical efforts are best focused – where anthropogenic pressures threaten diversity and there is a need to catalogue diversity in order to explore the sustainable use of natural resources.