Aarhus University has a herbarium of its own. The Herbarium is a collection of approximately 750.000 pressed and dried plants from the whole world, primarily from the western South America, Southeast Asia and the African Sahel Region. Moreover, it contains a large and valuable collection of Danish plants. More than 150.000 collections are digitalized and available for research purposes via the Aarhus University Herbarium database. The physical collection as well as the digital data are primarily used for research in biodiversity and management of natural resources.
The Herbarium is part of a worldwide network of herbaria and continuously exchanges collections with about 340 foreign herbaria. The network gives researchers at Aarhus University access to plant collections from all over the world, and, correspondingly, researchers from abroad borrow herbaria material from Aarhus and frequently guest the Herbarium for short or longer stays.
Aarhus University Herbarium is an important infrastructure for the project Flora of Thailand, which is aimed at a complete taxonomic overview of the 11,000 flowering plants growing in Thailand. For decades researchers from the herbarium have collected in Thailand, and today the herbarium includes more than 100,000 collections from Thailand and the surrounding countries. About 200 international researchers, the majority from Thailand, participate in Flora of Thailand and utilize the herbarium in their work. Several of the researchers visit Aarhus University Herbarium for long-term stays (up to 3 months), during which they utilize the collections to analyze the morphology and relationship of the species. Therefore, last year 20 botanists came for long-term stays, most of them supported by a generous grant from The Carlsberg Foundation in 2016, in total 15.4 mill. DDK, project no. CF14-0245) for the Flora of Thailand project.
Researchers and students from the Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity section at Department of Biology participate in an international research collaboration aimed at describing the plant flora at New Guinea, the world’s largest and most species-rich tropical island (Camara et al. 2020). Until now, more than 320 plant species are registered at the island and in the neighboring archipelago. The Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity section is responsible for processing of several genera including Heterospathe and Licuala. The herbarium at Aarhus University houses a rich collection of palms from the island, constituting a scientific reference for current and future studies of the flora.
Rodrigo Cámara-Leret et al. 2020. New Guinea has the world’s richest island flora. Nature August 5. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2549-5.
In 2014, the Department of Biology at University of Aarhus started a long-term afforestation project in collaboration with Aarhus Municipality. The project occupies a large test area at Mariendal Beach located 15 km south of Aarhus. In total 40 square plots, each measuring 400 m2, are established, and every year the plots are analyzed to yield insight into the dynamic processes that can underpin and promote a high and valuable biodiversity. Species identification can be rather complicated when the material is incomplete or limited – for instance if it consists of a leaf of grass – as will often be the case on the plots. Therefore, the Aarhus University Herbarium is of immense value to the project.
For several years, researchers and students from the Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity have studied the impact of climate changes on the Arctic vegetation. The researchers have brought home large collections of wood samples from Arctic dwarf shrubs that have been systematically collected on expeditions in order to study variations in the structure of the tree rings.
The anatomical studies take place in the bio-imaging laboratory hosted by the herbarium. It is equipped to produce microscopy preparations and conduct image analysis using advanced software.