Anthony R. Brach, Missouri Botanical Garden (at) Harvard University Herbaria, 22 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138-2094 U.S.A.
Information resulting from the Flora of China Project, an international collaborative effort to publish the first English language account of the vascular plants of China, is now accessible worldwide via the Internet.
This is possible because of the World Wide Web (WWW) which uses Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to locate and retrieve computer-based documents, data, images, sounds, and movies. Documents formatted in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) link tagged information to documents, data, and pictures available either locally or elsewhere on the Internet.
Persons can use web browsers such as this one by Netscape to locate and view Internet-based information on their personal computers. A web address or URL is entered on the location line, and may be stored as a bookmark. Clicking on toolbar buttons with the computer's mouse allows us to revisit or reload pages, load images, open locations, print pages, find text, and stop transfers in progress.
Botanists are now beginning to utilize the WWW and indexes and searchable directories of botanical information on the internet are available such as the Internet Directory for Botany, compiled by Raino Lampinen (Botanical Museum, Finnish Museum of Natural History, University of Helsinki, Finland), Shunguo Liu (G.F Ledingham Herbarium, University of Regina, Canada), and myself. It consists of two parts, an alphabetical directory and a categorical directory.
This is the Flora of China Home Page. Information on the Flora of China Web is organized into introduction, manuscripts, data, images, and editorial centers pages. Pointing the computer's mouse button over a link puts the URL location of the prospective link in the status field.
Each of the main pages contains a heading enabling a person to return to the home page, to access other main pages, to peruse the newsletter, search for information about particular taxa, send questions or comments via email, or to view the web page access summary statistics.
The introductory page provides information about the Project's background, support, links to related sites, and the Project's newsletter.
A visitor to this page is welcomed with an overview of the Project, basic information about floras, answers to frequently asked questions, importance of the Flora of China, and a look at the components and design of the Project's logo.
The treatments page directs persons to an alphabetical index to families, on-line manuscripts, a search mechanism for flora accounts, related papers, and the Project's Guidelines for Contributors.
Internet search engines enable us to find specific information or a particular page, by searching page titles, subject fields, document content, or other indexes and directories. A search form for the Flora of China manuscripts directs persons in search of treatments of particular taxa.
Treatments can be made available on the web throughout the writing, revision, and review process. In so doing, botanists worldwide can peruse treatments and provide comments.
The treatments page provides links to the Flora of China Checklist, a search engine for the Flora of China Web and the on-line manuscripts, links to databases of participant institutions, and other helpful databases.
Searching the Flora of China Checklist for Premna herbacea yields publication and distributional information, and a link to
a distribution map which is generated using the Xerox PARC interactive map viewer, a World-Wide Web HTTP server that accepts requests for a map and returns an HTML document including an image of the requested map. Each map image is created on demand from a geographic database.
Links to other databases are provided as well for persons in search of information about authors, collectors' names, publication titles, type specimens, chromosome numbers, and names of taxa.
One of the key highlights of the WWW is the ability to view images on a computer screen. Common image file types include GIF (Graphics Interchange Format), JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group), and XBM (X Bit Map) file formats. Inline images are displayed automatically when you bring the page to your screen. Like highlighted text, an inline image can be linked to another page or any type of external file such as an external image. You can view an external image by clicking on a link to the image. For example, this illustration of Scutellaria and another of Premna.
Persons involved in the Flora of China Project have contributed photographs to the Web, particularly Drs. Bruce Bartholomew, David Boufford, and Mark Watson. Dr. Bartholomew provided this photograph of the Yellow River in Qinghai.
As well as this photograph of Delphinium calophyllum in Qinghai.
The Editorial Centers main page provides information about individual editorial centers, authors, reviewers, committee members and assistants, and information for contributors including guidelines and maps.
Links to information about each editorial center and its institution are provided.
For example, the Kunming Institute of Botany right here, committee members, and important collections.
The Project's Guidelines are available on-line for contributors use, both in Chinese and in English.
Links to on-line maps are also available for persons in search of useful and pertinent maps, such as this precipitation map.
In summary then, the Flora of China web introduces the Project, provides news, accounts and related papers, images, and directs persons to searchable data, and provides information about editorial centers and guidelines for contributors. Botanists now have the opportunity to work on a dynamic account of the flora. Up-to-date and readily available information will be of great value to biodiversity, resource use, and conservation planning.
Brach, A. R. 1995. Botany and the INTERNET: Useful and interesting World Wide Web servers. Commentary. Plant Science Bulletin 41(1): 7-8.
Brach, A. R. (ed.) 1996-. Flora of China WWW. ["http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/"].
Brach, A. R. 1996. The Flora of China on the World Wide Web (WWW). pp. 104-106 in Zhang Aoluo & Wu Sugong (eds.) Proceedings of the First International Symposium on Floristic Characteristics and Diversity of East Asian Plants, July 25-27. 1996, Kunming, Yunnan, P.R. China. China Higher Education Press, Beijing & Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
Lampinen, R., S. Liu & A. R. Brach. 1996-. Internet Directory for Botany. ["http://www.botany.net/IDB/"].
Wu, Z. Y. & P. H. Raven (eds). 1994. Flora of China. Vol. 17 (Verbenaceae to Solanaceae). Science Press & Missouri Botanical Garden. 342 pp.
Wu, Z. Y. & P. H. Raven (eds). 1995. Flora of China. Vol. 16 (Gentianaceae to Boraginaceae). Science Press & Missouri Botanical Garden. 479 pp.