Actual value of general collections for biodiv analyses?

James H. Beach jbeach at NSF.GOV
Mon Feb 3 12:14:32 CST 1997


The recent thread on Taxacom about the way an accountant might cost out
specimens as prepared objects has led me to other economic frameworks for
determining a valuation of biological collections.

The value of collections of physical specimens of plants and animals for
applied biodiversity analyses, land use planning, etc. is an issue that
keeps coming up in discussions here.

I wonder if Taxacomers would have pointers to *published analyses of data
from historical specimen collections* for applied land use planning or
conservation projects?

I have seen lists of 1001 things one *might* do with specimen data that
would be of direct economic relevance to society, but I wonder how many
documented cases/studies there are where specimen data from *historic,
vouchered collections* were found to be of significant value in an actual
study or environmental assessment?

Let me hasten to restrictively define what I am looking for.

Excluded would be: 1) new transect, plot, trawl, inventories or samples
taken for a specific land use or water-use planning objective, and 2)
general biological voucher collection 'prospecting' of the kind The Nature
Conservancy might do to garner information on known threatened and
endangered taxa of an area.

Included would be quantitative analyses by academic scientists,
non-profits, consultants, land-use planners, or government agencies of
*existing* museum or herbarium specimen data for an important land use
planning decision or for contributing to a societal debate about setting
land use priorities in a particular geographic area.

In other words, what evidence exists from actual, published land-use or
regional biodiversity analyses that demonstrates the value of maintaining
general, historic, specimen collections, outside of the needs of
systematists, biogeographers, ecologists, etc. for scientific objectives?

Admittedly, there are other ways to evaluate the worth of specimens,
especially in scientific areas, the general value of science to society,
education, etc.  I am not diminishing those arguments, but I'm looking for
this particular class of use, and valuation of general collections.

Jim Beach

Dr. James H. Beach                                 Tel:   703 306-1470
Program Director                                   Fax:   703 306-0356
Database Activities, Room 615            E-mail: jbeach at nsf dot gov
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