The BRYOTAN (BRYOphytes of Parc Botanique et Zoologique de Tsimbazaza, ANtananarivo herbarium) project aims to address the lack of biodiversity data on bryophytes, focusing on mosses in Madagascar. These tiny plants, mostly unknown by the public, have crucial ecological functions in humid forests where they act as a slow release water storages, and also in open, dry ecosystems as first colonizers of naked soils or rocks and humus initiators. Since the end of the 19th century more than 3,000 dry moss specimens have been deposited in the TAN herbarium, but most remain unexplored.
BRYOTAN aims to build a database on Malagasy mosses, of which 751 species have been reported, and to make taxonomic, geographical and temporal specimen data available. The first steps will involve gathering data from herbarium labels to adapt to digitization and add geolocalization info. The project team will also organize an identification and training workshop in Antananarivo, welcoming international specialists and local botanists. The workshop will enhance efficient taxonomic data production from herbarium specimen, and train Malagasy bryologists for the future.
The team will build a website of “Malagasy Bryophytes” as a platform for the estimated more than 3,000 digitized data entries, that will also be shared through GBIF.org. All records will be complemented by images.
Involving three Malagasy partners with strong skills in herbarium management, digitization, web development and bryology (PBZT, Madagascar Program of the Missouri Botanical Garden, and Mahajanga University), and the Museum of Natural History in Paris for bryophyte systematics, BRYOTAN will share high quality data to validate and add new data to a Malagasy bryophyte checklist. This work will pave the road for increased awareness of bryophytes in conservation work, for institutions in charge of biodiversity management, and also the general public.