Romeiras, M.M., Duarte, M.C., Francisco-Ortega, J., Catarino, L. & Havik, P. (2018) Recovering Plant Data for Guinea-Bissau: Implications for Biodiversity Knowledge of West Africa. Diversity, 10(4), 109. DOI: 10.3390/d10040109
The rich plant diversity that characterizes the West African Region and the inherent knowledge of their flora and vegetation has been the backbone of scientific explorations during the past centuries. The evolution of botanical knowledge on Guinea-Bissau, throughout the 16th and 20th centuries is reviewed. We present and discuss floristic data collected by scientific expeditions between the mid-1700s to 1974, when the Portuguese colonial period ended. Expeditions undertaken by French naturalists provided some of the earliest plant collections. A list of herbarium specimens collected by the French naturalist Jardin, in the Bijagós Islands in ca. 1847–1858 is presented here for the first time, while in the late 1800s some Portuguese naturalists also explored Guinea-Bissau. During the colonial period (1915–1974), Gomes e Sousa published the first comprehensive study of the territory’s flora while Espírito Santo assembled the largest plant collection. Our review applies a multi-disciplinary perspective to fill important lacuna regarding biodiversity knowledge of this under-researched West African country. It constitutes the first study tracing the long term evolution of knowledge on Guinea Bissau's plant diversity, which provides the basis for understanding trends and research priorities, in particular in conservation and botanical fields.