The mark of a good action is that it appears inevitable in retrospect- Robert Louis Stevenson
Pteridophytes: the ferns and their allies
A dry continent, Australia is not as rich in ferns and allied species as the wet, tropical lands to our north. Nevertheless, a number of species have adapted to semi-arid conditions and these areas and the wetter forests, helped by the wide lattidue range of the continent, support a flora of c. 456 species in 112 genera; c. 95-100 of these species are considered endangered, vulnerable, rare or poorly known, and most of these survive in isolated populations in N Queensland. The focus of this project is the documentation and visualization of the pteridophyte flora of the Australasian and Papuasian regions by developing and implementing a range of bioninformatic solutions to handling botanical data, based primarily on the collections and databases of the Australian National Herbarium; the more successful of these approaches are applied to the remainder of the herbarium collection. In addition to internal database access, external public Internet gateways provide access to plant name information and distribution and occurence information, including dynamically generated maps; images of pteridophytes are being added to these resources. Textual information, both general and taxonomic, and links to Internet pteridophyte resources are provided through the Center for plant Biodiversity Research 'Fern Pages'. On-line descriptions and keys to Australasian and Papuasian pteridophyte families and genera are being developed and made available on the Internet and a descriptive character list has been developed for pteridphytes and a DELTA dataset is being populated for the c. 300 families and genera of ferns and fern allies of the world with a view to building an interactive Internet key. Information is shared with other Australian herbaria through the activities of the Virtual Australian Herbarium and the development of common data standards with the intention of building a larged combined and collaboratively managed information base. An aim of this project is to integrate research, data management and curation activities of the Australian National Herbarium. Volunteers assist in filling in gaps in our knowledge of the local flora. The long-term goal is to provide a comprehensive and integrated resource of pteridophyte data, information and tools for scientists, students, decision makers and the general public.