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Motivation

Why do this?

Data are accumulating rapidly in biological disciplines encompassing molecular, evolutionary, ecological, ecosystem and Earth system sciences, and the the synthesis of this information provides enormous opportunities for novel scientific discoveries. However, the technical challenges associated with synthesizing large and dynamic datasets are non-trivial, and place this information beyond the reach of most biologists. To address this problem, GrassPortal uses pioneering computer science methodology to automate the synthesis of taxonomic, phylogenetic, biogeographic and environmental data, opening up a wealth of information and new research opportunities for evolutionary biologists and ecologists.

Why grasses?

The ecological and economic importance of grasses means that they are among the best studied groups of organisms, and a huge array of information is available in the public domain. Grass species are ubiquitous on Earth, occurring in ecosystems on every continent and, when they form grasslands, they have a major influence on climate through the cycling of carbon and water between soils and the atmosphere. Grasslands support the largest populations of mammalian herbivores in the world, such as the large migratory herds of wildebeest and zebra of East Africa.

Grasses are among the most important of all plant groups. They form the cornerstone of human food production, accounting for most of the world’s major food crops. Species include wheat, barley, oats, rice, maize, millets and sugarcane, and pasture species which feed livestock such as cattle and sheep.

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