“Plant specimens stored in herbaria are being used as never before to document the impacts of global change on humans and nature," writes Claude Lavoie in his recent paper Biological collections in an ever changing world: Herbaria as tools for biogeographical and environmental studies.
Lavoie has gathered statistics on the use of herbarium specimens in papers that “study pollution caused by carbon dioxide, heavy metals, hydrocarbons, nitrogen, and phosphorus,” and “to identify priority sites for protected areas, especially in Africa and South America.”
The digitization of collections has dramatically increased the number of specimens included in studies. Lavoie writes that since 2004 “82 studies benefited from the computerization of collections. Indeed, the median number of specimens per study rose from 226 (without the use of computerized collections) to 15,295 (with the use of computerized collections)”