The world’s plants and their habitats are disappearing at an alarming rate, many even before they have been named or studied. Discovering, identifying, and documenting species through scientific inventory is imperative if the Earth’s biota is to be rescued from extinction and its habitats preserved. Through its research efforts the NTBG is participating in the global effort to establish a scientific basis for ecological conservation and develop methods for sustainable plant utilization that benefit people while protecting the environment. The first step in protecting botanical biodiversity is to inventory the existing plant species and determine their status through exploration, discovery, and documentation. This knowledge provides the basis for setting priorities and developing programs for local, regional, national, and international conservation efforts.
Scientific research is fundamental to the mission of NTBG and to all aspects of its conservation, horticulture, and education programs. The focus of research is on identifying, documenting, understanding, and conserving the rich diversity of plants and their habitats in the tropics, with particular emphasis on the plants of Hawai‘i and the greater Pacific region. The results of NTBG research in systematics (classifying and naming biological organisms and studying their relationships to each other) and floristics (the study of the plants or flora of a defined geographic or political region) contribute important knowledge of the world’s inventory of plant species. In conjunction with systematics and floristics, staff research focuses on plant propagation, economic plants and ethnobotany, paleoecology, invasive species, and restoration ecology.
Botanical fieldwork and collection of plants and genetic material are closely integrated with the development and curation of the living and herbarium collections, which are used for research, conservation, and educational purposes. Specimens and living plant material collected during fieldwork enrich and augment these collections. The research library provides an essential resource that is complementary to the other collections and is used in conjunction with them by staff, students, and visiting researchers.
Disseminating and sharing research results is accomplished through NTBG’s journal Allertonia,as well as in peer-reviewed scientific journals, popular articles and books, and electronically on the Internet. This information is indispensable to staff scientists and outside researchers, and is used in NTBG’s Education programs.