The Botanical Survey of India (BSI) has developed the first open-access online database of India's floral diversity to document over 18,000 flowering plant species in an effort at boosting digitisation and conservation of endangered ones.
The 'eFlora India' test site was launched by BSI in July 2015, on the occasion of the 'Digital India Week'.
The portal, once formally launched, will also serve as an updated plant checklist of India, said BSI director Paramjit Singh.
"The information in the Flora of India volumes published by BSI will be available through this portal in the database form. This consists of more than 6,000 pages of printed treatments covering around 4,500 taxa (a taxonomic category) belonging to 92 families," Singh told IANS.
"This effort puts India at par with neighbouring countries, like China, Nepal and Pakistan that already have such e-repositories," Singh said.
Further, he said, in keeping with emerging threats to floral abundance in India such as climate change, 'eFlora India' serves as a primary database on Indian floral diversity and could be used to carry out comparisons in case of any threat perception on a particular population.
The IT expertise for the novel initiative was provided by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Kolkata.
According to Mina Desai, principal engineer, CDAC, the online knowledge database, supported by a robust decision-support system, will help connect researchers across the globe to share insights and co-operate on botanical studies and analysis, keeping Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) reserved.
"It will help in modelling and data mining as well as analytics to gain insights into evolving issues related to plant diversity," Desai told IANS, adding sophisticated computing such as concept mapping (graphical tools for organising and representing knowledge) form a core component of the web-based tool.
A Decision Support System (DSS) is a computer-based information system that enables organisational decision-making activities and helps in making decisions about problems that may be rapidly changing and not easily specified in advance.
This feature aims to produce real-time and useful information for scientists concerned with conservation management in specific regions of the country.
The web application will facilitate one to glean information regarding flora by family, genus and provide updated correct scientific name and will be accompanied with high resolution images in near future.
"It will provide a rough idea about the location of the plant and the extent of its distribution in India. That way, any one working on conservation can use this data and analyse for strategies for conservation," said Singh, adding the BSI plans to digitise over two million herbarium collections representing distribution of plants in time and space.
"We are also planning to link it with Geographic Information System (GIS) in future so that precise place of occurrence can be provided," said the director.
The database also targets common man.
"It has a user-friendly interface and students or anyone wishing for complete information on one site can access it," added S.S. Dash, scientist, BSI.
The application currently has information on 4,000 species and is being loaded with more data.