Wales is the first country to create a DNA barcode for each of its native flowering plants and conifers. Through the Barcode Wales project, 1,143 species of flowers have been cataloged by their unique gene sequences.

Now, using only a tiny fragment of a leaf or a grain of pollen, any plant in Wales can be identified. The database is useful in numerous ways. Welsh scientists are now tracking pollinators to study why they are endangered, using DNA barcoding to identify pollen grains attached to the bees. The barcoding can also be used to study the habitat requirements of endangered animals, studying the types of plants they eat at different times of year.

The database can also be used to help predict effects of climate change, reconstruct past landscapes, monitor hay fever by identifying specific pollens, and even assist in forensic investigations by identifying plant fragments found on clothing at crime scenes.

The scientists plan to work on cataloging flora for the rest of the UK next. All of the barcodes are being uploaded to the international Barcode of Life Database.

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