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U of M researchers contribute to global plant database, expanding ecosystems research
Date:6/29/2011

A new database of plants' traits will help scientists around the world learn more about how climate change is affecting ecosystems.

The availability of plant trait data in the unified global database promises to support a paradigm shift in Earth system sciences.

University of Minnesota researchers Peter Reich and Jacek Oleksyn, Department of Forest Resources, and Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, are members of the international collaborative that developed the database, which includes 3 million traits for 69,000 of the world's roughly 300,000 plant species.

The initiative, known as TRY, is hosted at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany, and includes scientists from more than 100 institutions around the world. Among hundreds of scientists, Reich, a resident fellow in the university's Institute on the Environment, is the leading contributor of data to the database.

The first installment of the 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," said Jens Kattge, senior scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry and lead author of the publication. Reich, Cavender-Bares and Oleksyn are among the many co-authors.

Plants' traits specific details about how plants look and function determine how they compete for resources such as light, water and soil nutrients, and where and how fast they can grow. Ultimately, traits determine how plants influence ecosystem properties such as rates of nutrient cycling, water use and carbon dioxide uptake.

A major bottleneck to modeling the effects of climate change at ecosystem and whole-earth scales has been a lack of trait data for sufficiently large numbers of species.

"Global vegetation models commonly classify plant species into a small number
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Contact: Jeff Falk
jfalk@umn.edu
612-626-1720
University of Minnesota
Source:Eurekalert

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