India with only 2.4% of the land area, accounts for 7-8% of the recorded species of the world primarily due to varied ecological and altitudinal conditions.
This part of the world is a home about 1,01,649 vascular plants species of which 19,371 species are endemic to this region and 5447 species are reported to be endangered.
Out of the 34 biodiversity hotspots of the world, four hotspots namely Himalayas, Indo-Burma, Mountains of South China and Western Ghats and Sri Lanka are existing in this region which together harbor about 41,415 species of which 16,709 are endemic to these hotspots. India and China are also recognized as two of the seventeen mega diversity centres of the world.
Herbaria, being the repositories of plants, provide the basis for an analytical study of the vegetation of a region for evolving strategies for effective conservation and sustainable utilization. It may even be possible that herbaria may provide the source for learning the Meteria Medica of the local people, a knowledge which might have evolved by the local people practicing for thousands of years.
The discovery of new active principles from the plant resources draws immediate attention to herbaria where the specimens could be seen for recognistion so as to identify specimens in nature for collection, utilization and further research.
In view of the above, one of the prerequisites of the countries rich in biodiversity is to preserve the existing herbarium specimens and the knowledge contained in them and also to enhance the collections so that basic information gets created.
The collections of specimens should also be accompanied with ample and accurate field data and additional information on various aspects including the knowledge associated with the genetic resource of the region. As long as the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) is mandatory, acceptance among the signatory countries (having recognized herbaria) there is urgent need to develop linkages among the countries at inter-institutional and interdisciplinary levels:
Since a herbarium is one of the major components which provides adequate information in order to conserve the biological diversity of any country, international agencies, well developed national organizations may help strengthening regional, infrastructure facilities, capacity building and dissemination of the knowledge.
There are approximately 3,990 recognozed herbaria in the world today, with about 10,000 associated curators and biodiversity specialists. Collectively the world’s herbaria contain an estimated 350,000,000 specimens that document the earth’s vegetation for the past 400 years.
India and its neighboring countries namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, People’s Republic of China, and Sri Lanka have over 14 million herbarium specimens with elements new to science as types over 50 thousand. India stands 19th in position among the herbaria of the world for the repository of over 3.5 million specimens representing more than 23 thousand type specimens.
More herbaria should be established in the various locations of this region of the world to house local collections and the holdings in the existing ones augmented for a better assessment of the region’s plant resources in order to help resource management, which is needed more than ever before in the present environmental crisis.
There are 94 herbaria has been present in in India Acronyms with asterisk indicate that these herbaria are recognized by the International Association for Plant Taxonomy (IAPT), New York Botanical Garden, USA and are published in the INDEX HERBARIORUM, an index of herbaria of the world. Out of 94 herbaria in India 59 are recognized.