The release of Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants Edition 8 (RFK 8) represents another significant milestone in the development of this information system for identifying and learning about plants in Australian tropical rainforests. Each edition of the system since 1971 has made significant advances in the coverage of plant groups, the numbers of species included, the effectiveness of the identification system, and in the utilisation of current technology. As always, the aim of this new edition is to enable as many people as possible to simply and accurately identify and learn about plants in Australia’s tropical rainforests.
What is new?
The main goal for Edition 8 of Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants was to move to a mobile application platform that is available both online and downloadable to electronic devices. The coverage of the key includes the rainforests of the whole of the Australian tropics. A second goal was to continue adding taxa from regions already covered that had not been included in previous editions primarily due to lack of specimens for coding, and to update the nomenclature and distribution information for all taxa as required.
Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants Edition 8 includes 2762 taxa in 176 families and 48 new name changes. All flowering plant species are included - trees, shrubs, vines, forbs, grasses and sedges, epiphytes, palms and pandans – except most orchids which are treated in a separate key (see below), and a few other species for which specimens suitable for coding features are lacking.
All rainforest orchids are included in a dedicated orchid module (Australian Tropical Rainforest Orchids) now also delivered online. The need for a separate module was due to the unique morphology of the Orchidaceae family and the distinct set of features required for effective identification to species level. Nine species of orchid have been included within RFK8, mainly terrestrial species that reach more than one metre in height, or climbers.
Similarly, the ferns are currently under development as a separate module, Ferns of Northern Australia. Again, the unique morphology, terminology and features required for effective identification of ferns have dictated that a stand-alone module be developed.
The number of images in the key continues to increase, now numbering over 14,000. Most of images were gathered by CSIRO staff as part of this long-running research project. Significant numbers of new images have been provided by various photographers listed in the Acknowledgements section, most notably Garry Sankowsky, Steve Pearson, John Dowe and Russell Barrett. All donors of images for this project are gratefully acknowledged.