Knowledge of the flora is an important issue in this country largely covered by forests (over 75%), where almost 80% of the population lives in rural areas and uses natural resources (through collection activities by for example). This flora is intimately involved in cultural life: traditional medicine, food, arts, customs and so on.
In the National Herbarium, 18,000 specimens are currently stored, corresponding to about 1500 species.
Plant samples collected by the French national museum during Santo 2006 expedition, taken to Paris and then returned to Vanuatu, are deteriorating due to lack of proper conservation. Others (about 600) are still stored in New Caledonia in the Herbarium managed by IRD, waiting for better conservation conditions at the national Herbarium.
As part of a cooperation project with AusAID, the Vanuatu Cultural Centre will soon move its museum collections in new rooms. The VKS will make two empty rooms available for the Forestry Department to set up a new Herbarium.
Besides, there is no database of samples. Anymore, entry errors are common in an Excel file that lists only the latter. It is currently difficult to establish rigorously, from the collections, the list of families, genera or species; however, this reference list of taxa is a first step towards the establishment of a taxonomic reference.
Finally, transmission and dissemination of knowledge accumulated by experts for decades is limited (see existing books), especially as the curator of the herbarium is now alone in this field.
Vanuaflora project goals:
- 1. Allow for better conservation of botanical collections of Vanuatu, secure the herbarium as a tool and allow the repatriation of herbarium collections of Santo 2006 expedition in good conditions.
- 2. Structure a database user-friendly to improve the archiving of samples, consultation, knowledge update and taxonomic relationships to other herbaria.
- 3. Produce an illustrated guide to the flora of Vanuatu to disseminate to a wider audience the knowledge acquired over decades. This guide will allow scientists from other disciplines (anthropologists, ecologists, etc.), government services, students, etc. to use botanical knowledge more easily. It will highlight the rich flora of Vanuatu is an important asset of this eco-tourism destination.
Forestry department (Vanuatu government)
Laboratory of Botany. IRD New Caledonia.
CTRAV (Vanuatu Agriculture research and Technical Centre) CIRAD Vanuatu (International Centre for Agricultural Research for Development) Nature & List (Private partner)
Output 1: Equipment of the herbarium of Port Vila.
The Vanuatu Cultural Centre makes available two unequipped rooms to the herbarium cabinet will be ordered to store safely all botanical collections.
Forest Department. About 20 herbarium cabinet will be ordered to store safely all botanical collections.
Type herbarium cabinets that could be ordered (http://www.umce.ca/cours/martin/herbier_ekman/photos2004.htm).
Output 2: Data management of the herbarium of Port Vila
Output 3: Production of a bilingual illustrated guide of the flora of Vanuatu
This guide (about 300 illustrated species) will present to the general public, local or visiting, the vegetation of the country. It will also be a tool for government agents and students. Tourists can be attracted. The texts will be presented in both English and French.