Botanical Survey of India, UK-based Natural History Museum sign pact

The Botanical Survey of India (BSI) and Natural History Museum (NHM) in the UK today signed a MoU for cooperation in genetic and taxonomic studies and conservation in the country.

The pact will pave the way for BSI staff to work in the museum at London and vice-versa.

The staff will also share benefits that may arise from the collection, study and conservation of the plant materials such as seeds, herbarium specimens and tissue samples and exchange associated data and images.

The NHM will help the BSI in capacity building in areas of systematic botany and long-term conservation of plant genetic resources in India, an official statement said.

The MoU was signed by BSI Director Paramjit Singh and Head of the algae, fungi and plants division at the NHM Sandra Knapp in the presence of Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan.

The collection of Indian plants held in UK institutions, together with Indias own tremendous collections, are an invaluable resource for modern Indian botanical science, a statement said.

"Collections, digitisation and study by Indian scientists will make these openly available for wider scientific use in India in areas such as biodiversity conservation, environmental protection, and preservation of plant resources for use in traditional health systems by rural communities," the statement said.

Lakhs of herbarium specimens of Indian plants are located in the Natural History Museum in London, and a renewed partnership with the BSI is creating digital images of these specimens to make them available to Indian scientist.

Three staff members of the BSI have received Rutherford Fellowships (funded by the UK government) to undertake this important work in London.

They have received training in all aspects of digitisation and herbarium curation, and have already imaged some 16,000 sheets in plant families that are essential to crop science and food security.

At the same time two botanists from the NHM are working in the BSI herbaria throughout the country, identifying specimens, capacity building, interacting with young Indian taxonomists and exchanging ideas, the statement said.

"Signing of the MoU between the BSI and NHM is set to develop further to the benefit of both India and the UK.

"Both countries are committed to the use of scientific evidence to support the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES and the Nagoya Protocol. This MOU will enable research that will underpin these national responsibilities," the statement added.

Capacity building and scientific exchange between India and the UK will also be central to future work under the pact and will enable learning from each other, it added.