South Central China and Tibet: Hotspot of Diversity
Founded in 1872 to increase our knowledge of woody plants through research and education, the Arboretum carries out that mission within its Olmsted-designed landscape by developing, curating, and maintaining a collection of living woody plants from around the world that are hardy in the Boston area. The Arboretum’s herbarium of over 1.3 million wild-collected specimens, the majority from Asia, is maintained with other collections in the Harvard University Herbaria.
Major areas of research at the Institute include the restoration of degraded ecological systems and the biological resources of the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and eastern Tibet. The Institute also conducts research in systematics and phylogeny, as well as in conservation biology, with studies focused on the relationships between biodiversity and environmental conditions and on the reproductive behavior of protected species.
The Farlow Herbarium, administered as part of the Harvard University Herbaria, houses over a million specimens of lichenized and non-lichenized fungi, bryophytes, and algae. The collections are worldwide in scope, with particular strengths in the bryophytes and fungi of Asia.
The combined collections of the Harvard University Herbaria date to 1954, when the collections of the Arnold Arboretum, founded in 1872, and the Gray Herbarium, founded in 1864, were joined to form one of the world’s largest collections of botanical specimens and literature. Since then the Oakes Ames Orchid Herbarium (1899), the Economic Botany Herbarium (1858), and the Herbarium of the New England Botanical Club (1896) have been added. The resources of the Harvard Herbaria and Botanical Libraries are among the world’s best for studying the plants of Asia.
Harvard University launched the Library Digital Initiative (LDI) in July 1998 to develop the University’s capacity to manage digital information and to provide expertise and technical assistance to libraries, archives, museums, and research projects involved in collecting or creating digital resources throughout the University. In October of 1999, the Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library was awarded a challenge grant from LDI to digitize historic and contemporary material from Harvard’s natural history and ethnographic collections that related to China and Tibet.
The Harvard-Yenching Library is Harvard University’s primary resource for research materials on traditional and modern East Asia and is the largest university library for East Asian research in the Western world. Founded in 1928 with a collection of several thousand Chinese and Japanese books that had been acquired since 1879, today the library’s collections stand at more than 980,000 volumes, of which 560,000 are in Chinese, 260,000 in Japanese, 100,000 in Korean, 45,000 in Western languages, and 12,000 in Vietnamese, Tibetan, Mongolian, and Manchu.
The Institute’s herbarium, located within its botanical garden in Xiangshan, on the outskirts of Beijing, is now a national center for Chinese plant collections. It is one of the oldest herbaria in China and the largest in Asia, with more than two million specimens. The herbarium houses about 10,000 type specimens and plays a key role in the publication of Flora Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae and Flora of China.
The Institute’s herbarium includes more than 1.2 million specimens collected since its foundation in 1930. It is particularly rich in collections from the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau area and from other parts of Yunnan, Xizang, Sichuan, Guizhou, Qinghai, and Xinjiang provinces. The Institute is currently producing the Chinese language Flora Yunnanica and Flora Xizangica, which together will include more than a third of the 30,000 plant species in China.
Established in 1985, the Laboratory has the largest mycological herbarium in Asia. It is an academic research institution focused on the study of the evolution of fungi, species diversity, and natural systems.
The Museum was founded in 1859 as a center for research and education through the efforts of the Swiss zoologist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), who served as its director until his death in 1873. Its twelve departments-biology, oceanography, entomology, herpetology, invertebrate paleontology, invertebrate zoology, mammalogy, marine biology, mollusks, ornithology, population genetics, and vertebrate paleontology-carry on Agassiz’ vision and are leaders in modern zoological research.