You are here

Using herbaria to study global environmental change

During the last centuries, humans have transformed global ecosystems. With their temporal
dimension,herbaria provide the otherwise scarce long-termdata crucial for trackingecological and
evolutionarychangesover thisperiodof intense global change.The sheer sizeof herbaria, together
with their increasing digitization and the possibility of sequencing DNA from the preserved plant
material,makes theminvaluable resources for understanding ecological and evolutionary species’
responses to global environmental change. Following the chronology of global change, we
highlight how herbaria can inform about long-term effects on plants of at least four of the main
drivers of global change: pollution, habitat change, climate change and invasive species. We
summarize how herbarium specimens so far have been used in global change research, discuss
future opportunities and challenges posed by the nature of these data, and advocate for an
intensified use of these ‘windows into the past’ for global change research and beyond