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Floris’Tic: plant sciences in the digital era

This project was born and is being implemented in Montpellier, and is based on both the new possibilities offered by the digital sciences and on the development of collaborative projects. In a context where the Pl@ntNet app, supported in the context of Floris’tic, was downloaded three million times in 2017, nine new thematic and/or geographic projects are being launched in 2018, to the great delight of plant lovers throughout the world.

Groupe de botanistes
Updated on 07/04/2018
Published on 05/16/2018

The current context of the erosion of biodiversity and weakening of our environment has resulted in an increased need for expertise and the dissemination of knowledge on plant sciences and techniques. But the teaching of botany has long been almost abandoned, resulting in a marked lack of skills and attractiveness of the discipline.

Developing a plant sciences culture in as many people as possible

Floris'Tic targets the design and deployment of projects that mobilise and enrich botanical knowledge, thus contributing to the development of a plant sciences culture that will reach as many people as possible. The approach chosen consists in focusing on clearly identified communities that are linked in the context of networks.

To date, nearly 20 projects have been initiated throughout the world in the context of Floris’Tic. Focused initially on Europe, these efforts first extended to North and South America, North Africa and have more recently reached Tropical and South Africa. Nine new projects will be launched in 2018, designed within a collaborative framework and driven by one or more partners, the aim being to provide training and/or to manage natural or cultivated areas. They draw strength from the Pl@ntNet collaborative platform for the production, aggregation and dissemination of botanical observations, to which they also contribute.

The collaborative Pl@ntNet platform at the heart of the system

The Pl@ntNet platform resulted from a research project involving the Joint Research Unit for Botany and the Modelling of Plant Architecture and Vegetation (UMR AMAP) and its partners (the INRIA Zenith project team and the association Tela Botanica, with support from the Agropolis Foundation). In view of the initiation of numerous databases (herbaria, permanent plots, photo libraries, etc.), the scientific community wished to gain access to and exploit these varied resources for research and/or training purposes. In response to this need, a multidisciplinary team was built up to develop new skills around the development of this platform, in fields ranging from applied informatics to biodiversity.

Use of this platform for the large-scale identification of plants now extends well beyond the scientific and education communities for which it was originally intended. It is thus used:

  • By research scientists to conduct projects designed to characterise the natural environment and its changes, evaluate the biodiversity of a site and its wealth, or prioritise the conservation of environments and groups of living organisms,
  • By the managers of natural environments and farmers in order to identify different species (weeds or invasive plants),
  • By guides and naturalists to boost ecotourism and educate people in the environment.

 It has been downloaded seven million times since it was set up in 2013; in 2017 alone it was consulted three million times.

The principle of the application is based on species identification: a person with a mobile phone can take one or more photos of a plant according to a protocol and then identify it thanks to the system (user only), or contribute to enriching the application’s database if they know the species (contributor). A review system is in place to validate these contributions.

Perspectives

Pl@ntNet is currently able to cover 15,000 species, but hundreds of thousands exist – including nearly 400,000 flowering plants – throughout the world. The platform thus faces a dual development challenge:

  • To pass the milestone of hundreds of thousands of species, thanks to a large-scale learning system,
  • To exploit aggregated techniques and data. The data processed result from participatory research and combine two types of data: "protocol" data and also “spontaneous” data, the latter containing a certain degree of bias. The identification system functions particularly well when numerous images are available: the challenge is to be able to exploit these spontaneous data by removing any bias.
Contact(s)
Scientific contact(s):

Associated Division(s):
Forest, Grassland and Freshwater Ecology
Associated Centre(s):
Occitanie-Montpellier

For more information on the Floris’Tic project

Objectives: to develop the ability of actors – notably at a regional level – to design and deploy projects that will mobilise and enrich botanical knowledge and ultimately enable the development of a scientific, technical and industrial culture in the plant sciences involving the largest possible number of people.

Areas addressed by the project:

  • Structuring and emergence of relay communities,
  • Development of operational tools and interfaces for the creation of, access to and exchange of knowledge on plants,
  • Development of innovative teaching tools for training and awareness in the plant sciences and related professions.

Dates:1st January 2015 to 31 December 2018.

Funding: ANRU Investments for the Future Programme

Consortium driving the project: Fondation Agropolis, the Tela Botanica network, UMR-AMAP, INRIA

Other products of Floris’Tic: Smart’Flore mobile app, The plant Game quiz , MOOC de Botanique.

On the subject of

New projects in 2018

New themes:the trees of South Africa, useful plants in Tropical Africa, useful plants in South-East Asia

New geographical regions:Martinique, Comoros Islands, New Caledonia, Tropical Africa, Polynesia, Provençal flora (in association with the Bouches-du-Rhône Departmental Council)