The benefits of field guides


  • By enhancing general identification accuracy of plants in the field, field guides can improve the precision of forest inventories, and plant growth and yield studies, or pre-harvest stock maps (where one identification error can cost a timber company hundreds if not thousands of dollars).
  • Secondary benefits of the above are, then, a greater probability of sustainable exploitation and more efficient selection between protection and production areas.

  • By allowing local users of a forest to look up a scientific name, and by helping scientists to validate a local name, a better link between global and local knowledge is likely. People can look up whether species are globally rare, locally used, toxic, dangerous to livestock, nutritious or self-fertile – the list is endless and the benefits unpredictable.

  • By improving general knowledge of plants, local residents will have more to tell tourists and are more likely to earn money as tourist guides. Eco-tourists are more likely to enjoy themselves on a forest visit and recommend the place (and the guide) to their friends.
  • Field guides, particularly less technical ones, are commodities in themselves even if they are not used for identification. People buy them as souvenirs, and people can profit by selling them to tourists.

  • Situated in a library, or advertised or available on the internet, field guides are a beacon that say: these people value this forest; this forest must be of some interest. They put the ecosystem on the map for politicians, bankers, visitors and others to see.

    Plant identification (Extract from Chapter 1:Plant identification book by A. Lawrence and W. Hawthorne (2006)