Herbariomics unveils endangered chemistry across the world’s flora

ID: 613 / 444

Category: Abstract

Track: Pending

Proposed Symposium Title: Herbariomics unveils endangered chemistry across the world’s flora


Luiz L. Saldanha and Rodrigo Cámara-Leret

Affiliations: University of Zurich, Switzerland


Plants are essential for human health. However, little is known about how much of their chemical diversity is threatened with extinction. Here, we characterised the phytochemical space of endangered plant species and quantify, for the first time, how much chemodiversity may vanish globally with the loss of threatened plants. We find that 29% of the 1,463 species with chemical studies contain unique compounds. For the other 23,689 chemically neglected species, we developed a metabolomics workflow to accelerate their chemical study. Essentially, we test to what degree the diversity of alkaloids, terpenoids and flavonoids in living plants can be detected on herbarium specimens of the same species covering diverse taxa. Overall, our herbariomics approach to study chemodiversity brings a new dimension to conservation planning (beyond the currently used metrics of biological, phylogenetic and functional diversity) by highlighting priority species for future research (e.g. discovery of natural products) and imminent conservation action (i.e. threatened species with unique chemistry).

Symposia selection: 139, ,

Key words: herbaria, IUCN red list, natural products, natural collections.