5.16.01 - Wood collections and databases


Hans Beeckman, Belgium


Listya Mustika Dewi, Indonesia

Peter Gasson, United Kingdom

Tuo He, China

About Unit

A xylarium is a botanical collection that consists of wood samples and derived preparations, in recent times increasingly supplemented with extensive databases of images and measurements. The wood samples are often from large trees commercially used as timber, but some xylaria also contain material from other woody plants, such as shrubs, lianas, bamboos and other non-timber forest species like medicinal plants. Scientific collections consisting of reference specimens of lignified material are of growing importance.  Disciplines like wood anatomy and comparative botany traditionally rely on research material stored in wood collections. Identification of plant taxa through analysis of wood anatomical features has traditionally used xylaria for reference material. This has been done in diverse contexts such as wood commerce and industry, archaeobotanical investigations, paleoecology, ethnography and art history. Wood identification is increasingly of key importance for enforcement of regulations ensuring legal trade of timber and certifications of sound forest management. This relies heavily on wood collections and derived databases with descriptions and images of diagnostic features.

The unit aims at strengthening the role of wood collections in research. We explore how exchange of materials and facilities for data mining can be improved. We will establish an international network of researchers involved in the curation of scientific wood collections.

Researchers using wood collections are invited to participate in the exchange of stimulating ideas and innovative methodologies for better conservation, digitization, extension and management of wood collections and associated databases. It is expected that the coordination and collaboration on research among countries will result in substantial scientific progress.

A list of xylaria is published in the Index Xylariorum, http://www.iawa-website.org/uploads/soft/Abstracts/Index%20Xylariorum%204.1.pdf; https://www.iawa-website.org/en/Wood_collection/Overview_of_Wood_Collection.shtml. It has been updated repeatedly since its first publication in 1957. It gives an overview of the existing institutional wood collections for each country and provides information on collection content and potential exchange facilities of specimens.

State of Knowledge

Many of the collections are being managed with the help of electronic databases of specimen metadata. Since the xylarium databases are not mutually linked, insights in specimen and data availability are limited. It is not clear how and where collections can be augmented with new samples or measurements. It is particularly important to have access to precise metadata to judge the reliability of the botanical identity and the environmental and ontogenetic context of any measurements made on the specimens. There is a need to explore how the historical and contemporary data, derived from collection specimens, can adhere to FAIR (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Reusability) data standards and how these data can be made available, possibly through an API (Application Programming Interface).