October 4, 2022

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The Brazilian presides over the world’s largest estate owned by Queen Elizabeth II

oh Royal Botanical Gardens, QueIn England, one of the oldest gardens in the world, more than 260 years, its direct patron Queen Elizabeth II recently died and considered by UNESCO as a heritage of humanity, unites the most comprehensive list of plants and fungi worldwide, exceeding the identification of millions of species.

At the head of this veritable ‘plant kingdom’ is a Brazilian: Alexandre Antonelli is the Scientific Director at the Royal Botanic Gardens, took over in 2019 and coordinates research and studies with the various plant species present at the site.

Born in Campinas (SP), before taking up the position as director of Kew, Antonelli spent several years as a professor at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden), where he taught biodiversity. “I’ve worked with plants and biodiversity throughout my career, and Kew is home to the largest collection of them,” he says. Echo.

The seeds, fungi and vegetables present in the area act as a kind of thermometer, indicating which way the planet is going. Climate changes and conserving the environment, consolidating the world’s library of knowledge about the garden and the life in it.

The Royal Botanic Gardens catalog more than 8 million species and help monitor global warming

Image: RBG KEW

Plants help address global warming and hunger

Beyond the beauty of greenery and flowers, the Royal Botanic Garden invests in the study of its species to understand issues affecting the planet. This is done by comparing the growth of plants and fungi over time.

“The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew is a global scientific organization researching solutions to the biggest challenges facing societies. Our work contributes to finding science-based solutions to biodiversity loss, climate change and food security,” explains Antonelli.

According to Antonelli, understanding the evolutionary origins of different species and how they adapted to periods prior to climate change can help predict response and resilience. [das espécies] to the global climate crisis.

Royal Botanic Gardens catalogs more than 8 million species to help monitor global warming - Image: RBG Q/Breeding - Image: RBG Q/Breeding

The Royal Botanic Gardens catalog more than 8 million species and help monitor global warming

Image: Image: RBG Kew/Reproduction

But the researcher explains that in addition to observing the reactions of these organisms to global warming over the years, the study also required analyzing interactions between humans and plants throughout history.

“The history between humans and plants is also important and opens the possibility to test specific hypotheses, for example, about the medicinal properties of these plants”, explains Antonelli.

“We do our best to tell this story of people interacting with plants from different perspectives, including early uses, cultivation and economic values. This research is done directly in the garden and online through our interpretive signals on our extensive bench. “, he adds.

An encyclopedia of plants open to all

Kew Gardens evolved from a private collection of botanic gardens funded by the royal family. In 1759 Princess Augusta founded the Botanical Gardens. However, in 1772, his son King George III inherited the property. Q He added it to the Royal Estate at Richmond – two estates became one. That’s why I use it in the plural: gardens.

It is currently a public space partially funded by taxpayers and self-managed business models. The knowledge created by cataloging thousands of plants and fungi is free online to anyone in the world and today brings together past and present collections in the Garden of over 50,000 species.

In an old photograph, ecologist Patricia Wiltshire looks for material in the herbarium of Kew Botanic Gardens, London - Patricia Wiltshire - Patricia Wiltshire

In an old photograph, ecologist Patricia Wiltshire looks for material in the herbarium of Kew Botanic Gardens in London.

Image: Patricia Wiltshire

Antonelli calls this great catalog of species a true ‘digital revolution’ that will help share the wealth of Kew Gardens’ century-old knowledge.

“We are giving scientists around the world unprecedented access to collections of more than 8 million plants and fungi,” says Antonelli.

you Data is open format And go through a large digitization system that is part of the company’s science program Q Science Strategy 2021-2025It aims to expand global reach.

“We are constantly reviewing and evaluating Our science and history collections, we work with our international partners to diversify the structures in which we communicate our stories. Part of this is making our collections of plants, fungi, botanical literature and other specimens accessible to the public and researchers,” Antonelli commented.

Materials from the Botanic Gardens are being opened for further research and study by scientists around the world - RBG KEW - RBG KEW

Material from the Botanic Gardens has been opened up for new research and studies to be carried out by scientists around the world.

Image: RBG KEW

Protection of plants, ecosystems and indigenous peoples

Kew’s activities help conserve a wide variety of fungi and plants, but extend this care by having its researchers often work with local communities and indigenous peoples to ensure their knowledge and livelihoods are protected alongside the ecosystems they study.

“We are protecting tens of thousands of plant species in their natural habitats and working with partners around the world to identify priority areas for ‘in situ’ conservation. [onde as espécies ocorrem e vivem naturalmente]”, Antonelli explains.

“My personal experiences in Brazilian ecosystems help me understand the current challenges of biodiversity conservation, but also give me hope for the great scientific discoveries that await scientists,” he adds.

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