Background:Both vascular and non-vascular plants will be included in the inventory of the terrestrial flora of Moorea. This target includes all native and endemic vascular plants (about 230 species), the non-native (or alien) naturalized (or established) species (about 250 species), garden ornamental species (about 500 species), and all native bryophytes (liverworts, mosses) (about 150 species), for an estimated total of approximately 1,130 species. Leaf material will be sampled for at least two individuals from different populations of each species and stored in silica gel. Appropriately dried and labelled voucher specimens will be collected, and both the reproductive (flowers and/or fruits for angiosperms, fertile fronds for ferns) and the vegetative (leaves, stems, sterile fronds) parts will be photographed. The final objective of the plant component to MBP is to set up a simple, user-friendly (parataxonomical, not taxonomical) digital identification key for the terrestrial flora of Moorea. During the pilot portion of MBP, because of the interests of an UCB honor student (JN), a French graduate student intern at Gump and UPF (PYC), and an active fern working group at Berkeley, we started work on the ferns of Moorea, especially concentrating on the filmy ferns, but expanding to the entire Pteridophytes (i.e. ferns and lycophytes; 88 known species). This pilot portion of the MBP plants assured that protocols were in place to handle plant materials, tissues and material transfer agreements between French Polynesia and UCB. Unlike the animal barcoding effort which has a standard protocol using COI, there is still no consensus on a standard barcode marker in plants. We tested three candidate regions during the pilot phase, and concluded that two chloroplast loci, the rbcL gene and the trnH-psbA intergeneic spacer, should be used in conjunction as dual barcode markers based on rates of interspecific variation and amplification universality.We currently have rbcL and trnH-psbA sequence data for 50% of all known Moorea pteridophyte species, and are about 20% complete with full sampling (assuming an average of 3 specimens per species). While the final loci for plant barcodes are still debated, these genetic vouchers provide a template for testing putative regions for species resolution and are a particularly valuable, non-angiosperm test case for success. We have worked in close contact with all three major plant barcoding labs (Kew, Smithsonian, and Guelph) in sharing test regions and results.
Significance:The plant community is a fundamental component of the Moorea ecosystem. This work will provide ready access for specialists and non-specialists alike to the extensive systematic and ecological knowledge that already exists for Moorea’s flora (both scientific and traditional knowledge). The Moorea dataset will provide valuable contribution to global efforts to identify effective genetic markers for identifying plant species.