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Plant Diversity and Resources

Journal of Systematics and Evolution

Volume 55 Issue 4, Pages 291C307.

Published Online: 29 June 2017

DOI: 10.1111/jse.12254

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Plant DNA barcodes: Applications today and in the future

W. John Kress*

Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC 20560, USA

Keywords: conservation; DNA barcode library; forensics; forest dynamics plots; functional traits; genomics; identification; metabarcoding; next-generation sequencing; phylogeny


DNA barcodes have provided a new biological tool for organismal biologists to increase their understanding of the natural world. Over the last decade four plant DNA barcode markers, rbcL, matK, trnH-psbA, and ITS2, have been developed, tested, and used to address basic questions in systematics, ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation, including community assembly, species interaction networks, taxonomic discovery, and assessing priority areas for environmental protection. Forensic investigators have also applied these plant DNA barcodes in the regulatory areas of traffic in endangered species and monitoring commercial products, such as foods and herbal supplements. Major challenges ahead will focus on building the global plant DNA barcode library and adopting genomic sequencing technologies for a more efficient and cost-effective workflow in applying these genetic identification markers to additional fields of biological and commercial endeavors.


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