Forensic botany is a diverse discipline that spans many aspects of plant sciences, particularly taxonomy, field botany, anatomy, and ecology. Internationally, there is a significant opportunity to expand the application of forensic botany in criminal investigations, especially war crimes, genocide, homicide, sexual violence, serious physical assault, illegal trade in endangered species and wildlife crime. In civil proceedings, forensic botany may, for example, be called upon in trade disputes such as accidental contamination of commodities. Despite the potential, there are barriers to the wider application of forensic botany in criminal cases; there is a widespread need to improve the efficiency of botanical trace evidence identification. This could partly be addressed by embracing innovations in image recognition and by accessing the huge quantity of specimens and images housed in natural history collections worldwide. Additionally, the recent advances in DNA sequencing technologies and the expansion of environmental DNA (eDNA) and forensic ecogenomics, offers opportunities to more rapidly provide species-level identifications. The impact of taphonomic processes upon vegetation, and vice versa, remains poorly understood; improved understanding of these interactions and their ecological impacts may be invaluable in improving clandestine burial search protocols.
Forensic botany: time to embrace natural history collections, large scale environmental data and environmental DNA
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Niamh Nic Daeid, Lucina Hackman, Mark A. Spencer; Forensic botany: time to embrace natural history collections, large scale environmental data and environmental DNA. Emerg Top Life Sci 24 September 2021; 5 (3): 475–485. doi: https://doi.org/10.1042/ETLS20200329
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