The Herbarium of the French Institute of Pondicherry is popularly known as HIFP (Herbier Institut Français de Pondichéry). HIFP houses a large number of collections from the Western Ghats, especially for tree species, the other parts of India and also from different parts of the globe, which were received from different herbaria as a gift or on exchange basis. The herbarium presently contains over 27,875 specimens belonging to 257 families and 4700 species.
HIFP History & Background
The Herbarium of French Institute of Pondicherry, popularly known as HIFP was established in 1956 by Pierre Legris, an engineer from the Forestry commission of France. Since then, the collections have grown as a result of work by successive Researchers and students, as well as through the acquisition of other collections. Major contributors of the Herbarium include Meher-Homji, (between 1960 and 1981), G. Thanikaimoni, Palynologist (1960-1986), Blasco (1962-1978), Shankaranarayan (1957-1959), Balasubramanian (1971-1979), Seetharam (1977-1981), Suresh (1980-1981), Jean-Pierre Pascal (1974-1994). B.R. Ramesh (1982 onwards), N. Ayyappan (2005 onwards) and N.Balachandran (2015 onwards). Computer cataloging of HIFP began in 1998. Plant specimens have been added periodically to the collection by the staff and the herbarium is maintained with the assistance of S. Aravajy and N. Barathan, and cataloging was handled by S. Ramalingam; initially it was entered in Excel then transferred to the Access database. In 2010, the herbarium database was transferred into the open source Pl@ntNote software and published on the Institute’s World Wide Web site with the support of the Pl@ntNet project. In September 2021, we launched a collaborative project with The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda project named ‘Fantastic Ghats’ with the support of GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility) Presently we are curating the HIFP and BARO and Planning to disseminate as shared database with multi user facility and Processing to implement “Specify Collections Consortium”(Specify 7), An Open source tool to handle the herbarium data.
The specimens were moved out of the old wooden cases and into modern steel ones.
HIFP houses a large number of collections from the Western Ghats, especially for tree species, the other parts of India and also from different parts of the globe, which were received from different herbaria as a gift or on exchange basis. The herbarium presently contains over 27,875 specimens belonging to 257 families and 4700 species. The variety of plants in the collection are categorized as follows: Dicotyledons, Monocotyledons, Pteridophytes, Fungi and Algae. In each category specimens were arranged according to alphabetic order of families. Genera within the family are then placed in alphabetical order. And then the species (subtaxon) within each genera arranged by the alphabet. This arrangement makes it easy to retrieve specimens but gives no clue to the relationship between the specimen and other species, genera, or families.
Research programs at HIFP includes to document and understand plant diversity in the Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats, the other parts of peninsular India; to transfer the taxonomic expertise developed to various users the service, which includes transferring of taxonomic expertise gained through our studies through vegetation map, species distributional map, rationalization and implications for conservation of biodiversity in the Western Ghats; construction of identification key (field guide and electronic interactive keys), online plant identification resources, online specimen catalogues, and plant identification services to students, researchers, forests department officials and visiting scientists.
The HIFP herbarium database: Currently, the desktop version of the ‘Specify database’ on the HIFP will be working on online through the Institute’s website. A total of 19000 images and further on processing and incorporated into the herbarium database. Subsequently the web site was upgraded with taxon and geography level categorization and improved searching of specimen records and Updated mapping capabilities. The database is currently managed with Specify 7.
Species distributions modelling: The modelling of species potential distributions still faces scientific and methodological challenges. On the one hand, current models are primarily based on the hypothesis that observed populations are in equilibrium with their habitat conditions (which are consequently enough to predict areas of potential distributions), neglecting the independent stochastic effects of population dynamics (competition, dispersion, colonization, extinction, etc.; the so-called “non-equilibrium” theory). On the other hand, in the specific context of hyper-diversified tropical areas, there exist gaps in spatial data on species distribution, as a result of which only methods that use presence-only information can be used, whereas the seeming absence of species could simply be due to the lack of survey in certain areas. Based on the species occurrences data gathered into the Herbarium of the French Institute of Pondicherry , observed and potential distributions of the endemic tree species of the Western Ghats are currently being modeled using original methods of spatial data analysis and species niche models. The expected results will provide elaborated information for the decision makers to assess and define the conservation priorities and improvement of management plans for the species and forest conservation in the Western Ghats region.
The variety of plants in the collection are categorized as follows Dicotyledons, Monocotyledons, Pteridophytes, Fungi and Algae. In each category specimens were arranged according to alphabetic order of families. Genera within the family are then placed in alphabetical order. And then the species (subtaxon) within each genera arranged by the alphabet. This arrangement makes it easy to retrieve specimens but gives no clue to the relationship between the specimen and other species, genera, or families.
The Herbarium database: Transferred into Specify collection consortium an ecological database for maintaining all of our Herbarium datasets, the process is ongoing soon to be published in our IFP website itself, This Software provides a flexible approach in query building and retrieving the data. Through this One set of data was already published in GBIF website Herbarium of the French Institute of Pondicherry - GBIF .The HIFP herbarium database: Transferred into the desktop version of the Pl@ntNote software, it has recently been published online through the Institute’s Western Ghats Forest Biodiversity Portal. A total of 3470 images were edited and incorporated into the herbarium database. Subsequently the website was upgraded with a taxonomic browser and improved searching of specimen records and simple mapping capabilities. The database is currently under importation into the new Pl@ntNet-DataManager system for better multi-user and shared data management.