Linnaeus 2.0

Linnaeus was born 300 years ago. I’m not sure how many species he catalogued in his time, but his 21st century descendants at The Catalogue of Life have reached one million. I checked, and this does include some domesticated plants, but not, I think, in any systematic way. What they seem to have done at the Catalogue is to make it possible for users to search across 37 existing taxonomic databases, so if one or more of those include a particular crop species, you’ll get a hit if you search the Catalogue, and you’ll be directed to the original source of the data.

Cool cartograms

Cartograms are maps where the sizes of territories (countries, say) are proportional not to the surface area of their real-world counterparts, but rather to the value of some other attribute, like population or GDP or incidence of malaria. You can see lots of really wonderful examples on the Worldmapper website. That includes a few agricultural variables and some forestry stuff. Here’s an example of the former, net imports of vegetables by $ value.

As I said earlier in connection with Gapminder, wouldn’t it be great to be able to produce cartograms from FAOSTAT data? Or what about from the data in SINGER? Well actually that shouldn’t be all that difficult, the code for making your own cartograms is available, according to Worldmapper’s FAQ. Any volunteers?

Cartogram © Copyright 2006 SASI Group (University of Sheffield) and Mark Newman (University of Michigan), reproduced by permission. Worldmapper is at:


Yesterday’s post about Google and Yahoo Groups reminded me that I had planned to mention PestNet in this forum at some stage. “PestNet is an email network that helps people in the Pacific and South East Asia obtain rapid advice and information on plant protection, including quarantine.” The way it works is that you just send in your query by email, preferably with some photos attached, and, after moderation by dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers, your question is posted to all PestNet members (via a Yahoo Group). You can ask for help in identifying a pest or symptoms, or for advice on how to deal with a particular problem, anything to do with plant protection (which is interpreted pretty broadly). If anyone has an answer – and there are hundreds of PestNet members, so the chances are good that someone somewhere will know something that will be of help – they write back, and you’re hopefully on your way to a solution. I believe there is a similar service, which is completely free by the way, for the Caribbean and plans for something in Africa. I think it’s a really wonderful way of sharing knowledge in a very focused way. I wonder if something similar would be useful in plant genetic resources?