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TRY plant trait database – enhanced coverage and open access

Journal article
Authors Jens Kattge
Gerhard Bönisch
Sandra Díaz
Sandra Lavorel
Iain Colin Prentice
Paul Leadley
Susanne Tautenhahn
Gijsbert D.A. Werner
Tuomas Aakala
Mehdi Abedi
Alicia T.R. Acosta
George C. Adamidis
Kairi Adamson
Masahiro Aiba
Cécile H. Albert
Julio M. Alcántara
Carolina Alcázar C
Izabela Aleixo
Hamada Ali
Bernard Amiaud
Christian Ammer
Mariano M. Amoroso
Madhur Anand
Carolyn Anderson
Niels Anten
Joseph Antos
Deborah Mattos Guimarães Apgaua
Tia Lynn Ashman
Degi Harja Asmara
Gregory P. Asner
Michael Aspinwall
Owen Atkin
Isabelle Aubin
Lars Baastrup-Spohr
Khadijeh Bahalkeh
Michael Bahn
Timothy Baker
William J. Baker
Jan P. Bakker
Dennis Baldocchi
Jennifer Baltzer
Arindam Banerjee
Anne Baranger
Jos Barlow
Diego R. Barneche
Zdravko Baruch
Denis Bastianelli
John Battles
William Bauerle
Marijn Bauters
Erika Bazzato
Michael Beckmann
Hans Beeckman
Carl Beierkuhnlein
Renee Bekker
Gavin Belfry
Michael Belluau
Mirela Beloiu
Raquel Benavides
Lahcen Benomar
Mary Lee Berdugo-Lattke
Erika Berenguer
Rodrigo Bergamin
Joana Bergmann
Marcos Bergmann Carlucci
Logan Berner
Markus Bernhardt-Römermann
Christof Bigler
Anne Bjorkman
Chris Blackman
Carolina Blanco
Benjamin Blonder
Dana Blumenthal
Kelly T. Bocanegra-González
Pascal Boeckx
Stephanie Bohlman
Katrin Böhning-Gaese
Laura Boisvert-Marsh
William Bond
Ben Bond-Lamberty
Arnoud Boom
Coline C.F. Boonman
Kauane Bordin
Elizabeth H. Boughton
Vanessa Boukili
David M.J.S. Bowman
Sandra Bravo
Marco Richard Brendel
Martin R. Broadley
Kerry A. Brown
Helge Bruelheide
Federico Brumnich
Hans Henrik Bruun
David Bruy
Serra W. Buchanan
Solveig Franziska Bucher
Nina Buchmann
Robert Buitenwerf
Daniel E. Bunker
Jana Bürger
Published in Global Change Biology
Volume 26
Issue 1
Pages 119-188
ISSN 13541013
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 119-188
Language en
Keywords data coverage, data integration, data representativeness, functional diversity, plant traits, TRY plant trait database
Subject categories Terrestrial ecology, Botany


Plant traits—the morphological, anatomical, physiological, biochemical and phenological characteristics of plants—determine how plants respond to environmental factors, affect other trophic levels, and influence ecosystem properties and their benefits and detriments to people. Plant trait data thus represent the basis for a vast area of research spanning from evolutionary biology, community and functional ecology, to biodiversity conservation, ecosystem and landscape management, restoration, biogeography and earth system modelling. Since its foundation in 2007, the TRY database of plant traits has grown continuously. It now provides unprecedented data coverage under an open access data policy and is the main plant trait database used by the research community worldwide. Increasingly, the TRY database also supports new frontiers of trait-based plant research, including the identification of data gaps and the subsequent mobilization or measurement of new data. To support this development, in this article we evaluate the extent of the trait data compiled in TRY and analyse emerging patterns of data coverage and representativeness. Best species coverage is achieved for categorical traits—almost complete coverage for ‘plant growth form’. However, most traits relevant for ecology and vegetation modelling are characterized by continuous intraspecific variation and trait–environmental relationships. These traits have to be measured on individual plants in their respective environment. Despite unprecedented data coverage, we observe a humbling lack of completeness and representativeness of these continuous traits in many aspects. We, therefore, conclude that reducing data gaps and biases in the TRY database remains a key challenge and requires a coordinated approach to data mobilization and trait measurements. This can only be achieved in collaboration with other initiatives.

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