Spatiotemporal biases in Arctic herbarium specimen collections

Study assesses collection patterns and biases across Canada's largest territory using herbarium specimens

Data resources used via GBIF : 29,749 specimen records
Anemonastrum richardsonii
Richardson's anemone (Anemonastrum richardsonii) collected in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, Canada. Photo: Canadian Museum of Nature (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Biases in natural history collections may arise around certain climates and in remote areas, which in turn may impact the results of scientific studies based on data from such collections. This can be especially pronounced in time-sensitive phenological studies.

This study examines 29,000 herbarium specimens from Nunavut—the largest and most northerly territory of Canada—deposited at the National Herbarium of Canada (available through GBIF) to assess biases across time, space, and phenology, among others.

The limited access to the region as well as very short snow-free periods are apparent in the results of the study, showing 85 per cent of specimens collected in July and August. In terms of spatial distribution, only 0.63 per cent of the region contained one or more specimens—with the highest density of records found near the capital, Iqaluit.

The study also finds a preference towards collecting flowering plants in peak flower, as more than two-thirds of specimens fall into these categories when assessing phenological phase and flowering stage, respectively.

Original article

Panchen ZA, Doubt J, Kharouba HM and Johnston MO (2019) Patterns and biases in an Arctic herbarium specimen collection: Implications for phenological research. Applications in Plant Sciences. Wiley 7(3): e01229. Available at:

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