Past projects

SYNTHESYS+: Synthesis of systematic resources

SYNTHESYS+ is a EU-funded pan-European collections infrastructure project, aiming to produce an accessible, integrated European resource for research users in the natural sciences. SYNTHESYS will create a shared, high quality approach to the management, preservation, and access to leading European natural history collections. A core element in SYNTHESYS is to provide funded researcher visits (Access) to the 390,000,000 specimens housed by SYNTHESYS institutions. Alongside the Access, a Joint Research Activity (JRA) aims to improve the quality of and increase access to digital collections and data within natural history institutions by developing virtual collections. Network Activities (NA) will provide enhanced quality and quantity of online collections information to virtual Users and will implement best practice benchmarks in collections care to raise standards and improve accessibility to collections for all physical Users.

External link:   |  FRIS research portal [ ]

Project start date: 1/02/2019

MOBILISE: Mobilising Data, Policies and Experts in Scientific Collections

Mobilise is a network action funded by the European Commission's COST Office. This action brings together people from thirty European countries to share best practices and discuss standard on the digitization of Natural Science collections.

External link:   |  FRIS research portal

Duration: 1/10/2018 – 30/09/2023

ICEDIG: Innovation and consolidation for large scale digitisation of natural heritage

Modern science requires digital access to data. European collections account for 55% of the natural sciences collections globally, holding more than 1 billion objects, which represent 80% of the world’s bio- and geo-diversity. Only around 10% of these have been digitally catalogued and 1-2% imaged, rendering their information underused. The sheer scale and complexity of digitising and providing access to this information requires technological, sociocultural, and organisational capacity  enhancements across the continent. This challenge is being tackled by the new ESFRI initiative Distributed System of Scientific Collections (DiSSCo). DiSSCo will unify access to collection data in a harmonised and integrated manner across Europe. It will enable critical new insights from integrated digital data to address some of the world's greatest challenges, such as biodiversity loss and impacts of climate change. However, new research and technological innovation will be required to solve the challenges of efficiently digitising and seamlessly accessing the collections. Building on previous project outputs, community and industrial expertise, the ICEDIG project will design all the technical, financial, policy and governance aspects for developing and operating DiSSCo. A consolidation stream will develop a shared governance model to support all aspects of service unification such as implementation of the open access principles, incentive schemes, planning and prioritisation, capacity development, etc. A technology stream will focus on the innovations that will be required to digitise a significant part of major collections in a foreseeable time, at acceptable cost, and to manage petabyte-size data. The work will be carried out in wide consultation with the larger community. The outputs will be prototypes, blueprints, novel workflows, new industry partnerships, and citizen involvement models, paving the way for the successful construction of the DiSSCo research infrastructure. [Source: Annex 1, Project Summary]

External link:   |  FRIS research portal

Duration: 01/01/2018 – 31/03/2020

DOE2: Digitale ontsluiting van botanische biodiversiteitsdata

- under development -

Internal link: xx

Duration: xx

International Plant Sentinel Network

As a result of increased international trade and climate change, new plant diseases and pests are spreading rapidly. To develop warning systems and protection measures, the International Plant Sentinel Network [link:] (IPSN/ EUPHRESCO), coordinated by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), was established. Within this framework, the Belgian Plant Sentinel Network was set up in 2017, which unites seven Belgian botanical gardens and arboreta with the national reference laboratories for plant health, with Meise Botanic Garden as coordinator. This project is financed by the Federal Public Service for Public Health, Food Chain Safety and the Environment. The emphasis is on the development of a sustainable network in which the experts from the laboratories pass on knowledge to the gardens. The best way of making observations and taking samples will also be coordinated. For this two-year project, four test cases of pests on conifers, oaks and elms were selected.

More details: [ ]

External link:   |  FRIS research portal

LIFE herbages: Priority Actions for grasslands and meadows in Lorraine and the southern Ardenne

The goal of the LIFE Herbages project is to restore biodiversity on at least 400 ha of grasslands, meadows and humid forests in southern Belgium. More specifically, the objective is to improve the conservation status and connectivity of 11 specific habitats defined by the European Union as of "community interest" according to the Habitats Directive. Meise Botanic Garden, as a centre of excellence in ex situ conservation and plant propagation, is responsible for the implementation of population transplantations in the wild for four critically endangered species (Dianthus deltoides, Helichrysum arenarium, Arnica montana and Campanula glomerata). The aim is to increase the effective size of remaining populations (reinforcement) and to restore extinct populations (reintroduction) in order to improve connectivity in the landscape.

External link:  |  FRIS research portal

Duration: 01/01/2013 – 31/12/2019


COBECORE is a Belspo funded project which brings together an interdisciplinary network of partners, including the main institutes curating eco-climatological legacy data of the central Congo Basin. The global objective of this 4-year project is to establish baseline measurements necessary in long-term ecological and climatological research, valorizing as of yet unexplored heritage. Botanic Garden Meise is responsible for extracting data of leaf functional traits from historical herbarium specimens (e.g. stomatal density, gwmax, specific leaf area) of rainforest trees growing the Yangambi and Luki regions.

External links:  |  FRIS research portal

Duration: 1/01/2017 – 15/04/2020

HerbaXylaRedd: Unlocking valuable ecological information from the collections of the Botanical Garden Meise herbarium and the Royal Museum for Central Africa xylarium

Tropical forests are in the focus of international efforts on climate change mitigation and biodiversity preservation. Up-to-date forest management, conservation and enforcement mechanisms need to be founded on solid science. Worldwide, the Xylarium of the Royal Museum of Central Africa (RMCA) and the Herbarium of Meise Botanic Garden are by far the most important reference collections for Central African forests worldwide. Both be considered ‘sleeping beauties’ because substantial scientific research is necessary to exploit fully the invaluable information sources and to make the collection databases compatible with international databases online available. The five-year HERBAXYLAREDD project aims to renew, complement and strengthen the reference value of both the Herbarium and the Xylarium, at generating knowledge, through analysis of specimens’ traits and meta-data, on Central African forest ecosystems and forest products. Newly generated data will allow exploring functional strategies, growth and the genetic structure of tree species, an optimized distribution map of tree species, technological aspects of lesser used timber species, carbon stocks of forests and energy content of Central African woody species. Given the high diversity, a focus is laid on the following target groups: undergrowth versus dominant forest species, lesser used timbers and species for bio-energy. The study of each of these target groups, especially the species classified as commercial involves specific scientific questions and will provide quantitative data needed for policy-making.

External link:   |  FRIS research portal [ ]

Duration: 15/12/2014 – 15/3/2019

XI EDF Project in Yangambi: Intervention in the coffee sector

The project, funded with the resources of the 11th European Development Fund, aims to make a significant contribution to the integrated development of the Yangambi Biosphere Reserve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its specific objectives are the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services, as well as local economic development in the region. Meise Botanic Garden is partner of this project and contributes to the rehabilitation of the INERA Yangambi coffee collection and monitoring of water quality through diatoms as bioindicators.

External link:  |  FRIS research portal

Duration: 1/03/2019 – 31/12/2021

Kivu-café project

- Under development -

DNAqua-Net - Developing new genetic tools for bioassessment of aquatic ecosystems in Europe

DNAqua-Net is a European Union COST Action on developing new genetic tools for bioassessment of aquatic ecosystems in Europe. The mission of the project is to build a vivid network of scientific experts, politicians, water managers and other stakeholders, private enterprises and the wider public involved in the use of DNA-based approaches for the monitoring and assessment of aquatic habitats. Furthermore, DNAqua-Net will contribute to the training of the next generation of researchers and water managers, preparing them for the new technologies – in Europe and beyond.

External link:  |  FRIS research portal

Duration: 2016–2020

Plant.ID - Molecular Identification of Plants

In 2018, a network of botany researchers from leading institutes in Europe have been granted four million euros for the project ‘Plant.ID’ on molecular identification of plants. The EU H2020 ITN-ETN grant will fund training for 15 doctoral students to collectively work on developing methods and practical tools for automated identification of plants using DNA sequences. The network includes universities, botanic gardens, natural history museums, industry and regulatory agencies.

Within this scientific framework, Meise Botanic Garden will be involved in the genetic identification of illegally logged African trees. Despite restricted logging concessions and improved forestry laws, recent studies show that illegal logging represents an alarming 75% of the annual industrial timber production in Democratic Republic of the Congo. Standard DNA barcoding is useful in identifying material to genus level, but a more advanced procedure is needed as illegal timber is often passed off as a similar but more common species. Legal officers are in need of a genetic reference database to rapidly reveal the provenance and species affiliation of logged trees.

Samples from the large collection of African trees in the Garden’s herbarium and silica collection will be analysed using high-throughput sequencing, to yield full plastid genomes. From these, a genetic reference database of threatened African trees will be produced as tool against illegal logging 

External link:  |  FRIS research portal

Duration: 01/01/2018 – 31/12/2021

Finalizing the Flore d’Afrique centrale to support the conservation and sustainable use of Central African plants

The Flore d’Afrique centrale aims to provide basic information and identification tools for all c. 11,000 vascular plant species occurring in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. It is produced in hard copy fascicles and as and e-Flora ( About two-third of the work has been achieved, and a network of over 50 international researchers aims to finalize this enormous work within 15 years. To facilitate and speed up their work the Franklinia Foundation financially supports their visits to the MeiseBG collections. Parallel to that, intensive training is provided to young and promising taxonomists from the Central African region.

Duration: 2017 – 2021

Finalizing Flore du Gabon - a final push

Since 2014, Meise Botanic Garden is coordinating the production of the Flore du Gabon series, together with Naturalis Biodiversity center in the Netherlands. Gabon is seen as a botanical hotspot and harbours around 7,000 vascular plant species with a high level of endemism. This high diversity is often explained by the historical context; Gabon lies in the center of postulated Glacial rain forest refugia. Having a good quality Flora available with which plants can be reliably identified is crucial for a wide array of activities in the field of research, sustainable use and conservation. Around 75% of the Flora has been produced, and this project aims at finishing the remainder within 5 years. Funding to speed up the delivery of manuscripts has been provided by the Alberta Mennega Foundation for an initial period of 2 years.

Duration: 2019-2020

ECAT: Conservation of endemic Central African trees through IUCN Red Listing and Species Distribution Modelling

Meise Botanic Garden is by far the most important knowledge centre for Central African plants (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi). This botanically highly diverse region houses around 11,000 species of vascular plants, of which approximately 2,500 are trees. This project contributes to the BGCI (Botanic Gardens Conservation International) Global Tree Assessment, in collaboration with the IUCN/SSC Global Tree Specialist Group (GTSG), aiming to realize conservation assessments of all the world’s tree species. Together with two IUCN authorities, the Central African plants Red List Authority (CARLA, for DR Congo) and the East African Plants Red List Authority (EAPRLA, for Rwanda and Burundi), MeiseBG will produce full IUCN Red List assessments for all c. 400 tree species (sub-)endemic to Central Africa. These will be available on the web, but the results will also be converted into a well-illustrated book aimed at a broad user group.

The project will create a unique, high quality database of herbarium records related to (sub-)endemic trees in Central Africa. These data will also be used to apply Species Distribution Modelling techniques. With that, we explore several issues: (1) using predicted distributions as a parameter of extinction risk, (2) the potential impact of climate change on future tree species distributions, and (3) the effectiveness of the Central African protected area network in terms of conserving (sub-)endemic trees now and in the future. Using Geographical Information Systems to project their locality data on climate, soil and altitude data layers, the environmental envelope and potential distribution of each endemic tree species can be assessed. The accumulated distribution models will be used to identify hotspots of endemic tree species, as well as the potential impact of climate change in the decades to come on species richness patterns. The project is funded by the Franklinia Foundation and experts from Missouri Botanical Garden (USA), Université libre du Bruxelles and Naturalis Biodiversity Center (Leiden, The Netherlands) collaborate to achieve the goals.

Duration: 2018 – 2021

Exploration of genetic diversity, drought tolerance and Fusarium resistance of wild bananas in Vietnam

Bananas accommodate the fourth most important global food commodity grown in more than 130 countries in tropical and subtropical regions. Global climate change and the everlasting demand to feed a continuously growing world population puts an increasing pressure on banana breeding and cultivation. In an era of globalization and climate change, it is important that novel and superior alleles are identified and conserved from wild relatives of agricultural crops such as bananas since they hold the key to disease resistance and provide an important response to abiotic stresses such as water deficit. The species rich Vietnamese forests do not only provide important ecosystem services, they are also valuable repositories of M. balbisiana genetic resources. The aim of this FWO-funded project is (1) to map Musa genetic resources of Vietnamese origin already available in ex-situ conservation programs, (2) to gain insight in the distribution of genetic diversity of Musa balbisiana using state-of-the-art high throughput sequencing techniques, and to link genetic diversity with (3) drought tolerance and (4) Fusarium wilt resistance.

Duration: 01/01/2018 – 31/12/2020

Effects of tropical rainforest disturbance on gene flow, genomic diversity and introgression in understory trees: the case of Coffea canephora in the Congo basin

To ensure the resilience and long-term stability of tropical rainforests, fostering the regeneration of the occurring woody plant species is critical. Yet, crucial aspects of gene flow, including pollination and seed dispersal, have become strongly jeopardized through ongoing large-scale anthropogenic disturbances of tropical forests. Furthermore, many crop wild relatives from tropical forests face the risk of hybridization with planted cultivars. The general objective of this FWO funded project is to study the population genetic structure, gene flow and the pollination and frugivorous communities in Robusta coffee, a tropical rainforest understory shrub, in the Congo Basin. Comparing coffee populations from regions that differ in their degree of anthropogenic pressure, will enable us to investigate the potential threats from anthropogenic interferences. This FWO-funded project is a collaboration between Meise Botanic Garden, ILVO, KU Leuven, the Royal Museum for Central Africa and the University of Kisangani.

External link: FRIS research portal

Duration: 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2022 

Diversity of Coffea in the Congo basin with a focus on the Yangambi MAB reserve

Short description: SBBOA-funded project

The main aim of this project is the exploration and documentation of Coffea and related understory Rubiaceae in the Yangambi MAB reserve. A comprehensive strategy for conservation of genetic resources of these species is of great importance because of the rapid extinction of primary rainforests in Africa. Besides a morphological characterization of the sampled specimens, a molecular genetic analyses of these samples will provide additional information about the (genetic) diversity of Coffea and can provide support for species identification.

External link: FRIS research portal

Duration: 19/02/2018 - 18/02/2019

TurtleBIOME: insight into endozoic and epizoic microbial communities of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) 

The TurtleBIOME project, funded by xxx, aims to to provide a clear, complete and detailed image of the microbial composition of the surface biofilm and the gut microbiome of loggerhead sea turtles. We will achieve this goal by pairing state-of-the-art culture-independent molecular approach, e.g. new generation sequencing (NGS) of bacterial and fungal components of the micro-community and single cell PCR amplification of diatoms, with classical approach of diatom cultivation and light and electronic microscope observations of biofilm components.

The added value of this research is that we propose to analyze and characterize the microbiome of different individuals stranded or accidentally caught in the eastern coast of Adriatic Sea in cooperation with the Marine Turtle Rescue Centre in Pula, Croatia. Meise Botanic Garden researcher Bart Van de Vijver is involved in XXX.

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TRiAS: Tracking Invasive Alien Species

TrIAS is a Belspo-funded project that brings together 12 Belgian institutions, aiming to create a seamless workflow from raw biodiversity data to policy advice on invasive species in Belgium. TrIAS is working with the international Biodiversity Information Standards organisation to improve their core standards, to make them more versatile and useful for data collected on invasive species.

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Duration: 15/12/2016 - 15/03/2021

Mycologie et développement dans la Région des Grands Lacs : approche raisonnée et filières de production ex-situ de champignons comestibles, une alternative économique additionnelle à l'exploitation des aires protégées

The specific objective of this ARES-FWB-funded R&D project is to study edible fungi in protected areas of the African Great Lakes region, in terms of a) diversity (taxonomy, biology, ecology) and potential for cultivation (b) nutritional intake and (c)  socio-economic importance of the harvesting activity and controlled ex situ production. Through this integrated approach, the project will offer the population a choice of domesticated key-species, whose production is controlled and economically viable. This objective will be achieved through staff training (master's degrees, doctorates and technical courses) and the training of field actors in conservation.

Duration: 2018-2022

Champignons comestibles des forêts claires Ouest Africaines (AbcTaxa)

This North-South capacity building project, partly funded by CeBioS [link: ], aims to produce a volume in the AbcTaxa [link: ] series about edible fungi of the Soudano-Guinean savanna woodlands from Bénin and neighboring countries. The West-African partner is based at the University of Parakou and local scientists are trained in various skills, including ethnomycology, collecting and photographing fungi, herbarium techniques, as well as microscopy, anatomy and identification of fungi. A new mycology herbarium (UNIPAR) was erected and supported with equipment. It is the first mycology herbarium in the country and is meant to store collections from the entire region, including the newly gathered reference collection supporting the AbcTaxa.

Duration: 2018-2021

Alien-CSI: Increasing understanding of alien species through citizen science

Alien-CSI is an international networking action to conduct research and share expertise. This action is specifically investigating ways that citizen science can be used to monitor and raise awareness of invasive species and their impacts.

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Groene Pioneers

Short description: Raising awareness on invasive plant species through citizen science.

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Flore de Gand

- under development -

Duration: 1/09/2018 - 30/06/2019

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LinBI: Linking Biodiversity and Culture Information

LinBi aims to provide access to biodiversity content for new user communities. LinBi aims to bridge the information gap by providing new ways of using biodiversity content. By linking information objects, the LinBi enrichment platform will connect Europe's biodiversity material with existing content.

External link:

Duration: 1/01/2019 - 30/06/2020

Past projects