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Phil Trans of the Royal Society (B), theme issue on Biological collections for understanding biodiversity in the Anthropocene

“Human impacts, such as climate change, urbanization, and pollution, are changing what species live on earth and how they function. Yet, our knowledge of how we affect biodiversity and natural resources is limited due to a lack of long-term studies that span from before humans began to influence our environment to today. In this themed issue, we provide examples of how the billions of plant, fungal, and animal specimens kept behind the scenes in natural history museums have the potential to transform the field of global change biology. We suggest that museum specimens are underused given their capacity to reveal patterns that are not observable from other data sources. As these unparalleled resources are under threat due to budget cuts and other institutional pressures, we aim to shed light on the unique discoveries that are possible in museums and, thus, the singular value of natural history collections in a period of rapid change.”