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Global plant database set to promote biodiversity research and Earth-system sciences
Date:7/1/2011

The world's largest database on plants' functional properties, or traits, has been pub-lished. Scientists compiled three million traits for 69,000 out of the world's ~300,000 plant species. The achievement rests on a worldwide collaboration of scientists from 106 re-search institutions. The initiative, known as TRY, is hosted at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena (Germany). Jointly coordinated with the University of Leipzig (Germany), IMBIV-CONICET (Argentina), Macquarie University (Australia), CNRS and University of Paris-Sud (France), TRY promises to become an essential tool for biodiversity research and Earth-system sciences.

Plant traits their morphological and physiological properties determine how plants compete for resources, e.g. light, water, soil nutrients, and where and how fast they can grow. Ultimately they determine how plants influence ecosystem properties such as rates of nutrient cycling, water use and carbon dioxide uptake.

A major bottleneck to modelling the effects of climate change at ecosystem and whole-earth scales has been a lack of trait data for sufficiently large numbers of species. The first release of the TRY database was published this week in the journal Global Change Biology. "After four years of intensive development, we are proud to present the first release of the global database", says Jens Kattge, senior scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry and lead au-thor of the publication.

"This huge advance in data availability will lead to more reliable predictions of how vegetation boundaries and ecosystem properties will shift under future climate and land-use change scena-rios", points out Dr Ian Wright from Macquarie University. "The TRY global database also prom-ises to revolutionise biodiversity research, leading to a new understanding of how not only the numbers of species (biodiversity) but also the variation among species in their traits (functional
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Contact: Jens Kattge
jkattge@bgc-jena.mpg.de
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert  

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