Global Genome Biodiversity Network: saving a blueprint of the Tree of Life – a botanical perspective

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Background Genomic research depends upon access to DNA or tissue collected and preserved according to high-quality standards. At present, the collections in most natural history museums do not sufficiently address these standards, making them often hard or impossible to use for whole-genome sequencing or transcriptomics. In response to these challenges, natural history museums, herbaria, botanical gardens and other stakeholders have started to build high-quality biodiversity biobanks. Unfortunately, information about these collections remains fragmented, scattered and largely inaccessible. Without a central registry or even an overview of relevant institutions, it is difficult and time-consuming to locate the needed samples.

Scope The Global Genome Biodiversity Network (GGBN) was created to fill this vacuum by establishing a one-stop access point for locating samples meeting quality standards for genome-scale applications, while complying with national and international legislations and conventions. Increased accessibility to genomic samples will further genomic research and development, conserve genetic resources, help train the next generation of genome researchers and raise the visibility of biodiversity collections. Additionally, the availability of a data-sharing platform will facilitate identification of gaps in the collections, thereby empowering targeted sampling efforts, increasing the breadth and depth of preservation of genetic diversity. The GGBN is rapidly growing and currently has 41 members. The GGBN covers all branches of the Tree of Life, except humans, but here the focus is on a pilot project with emphasis on ‘harvesting’ the Tree of Life for vascular plant taxa to enable genome-level studies.

Conclusion While current efforts are centred on getting the existing samples of all GGBN members online, a pilot project, GGI-Gardens, has been launched as proof of concept. Over the next 6 years GGI-Gardens aims to add to the GGBN high-quality genetic material from at least one species from each of the approx. 460 vascular plant families and one species from half of the approx. 15 000 vascular plant genera.

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