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Quantifying and scaling global plant trait diversity

TRY is a network of vegetation scientists headed by
Future Earth and the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry,
providing a global archive of curated plant traits.
The TRY database is a research platform of iDiv.

Database Version 4 online (2017-07-20)
Updated to 4.1 on 2018-02-04

6.9 million trait records
148,000 plant taxa
largely open access


TRY Data Output Suspended Over Holidays (2018-12-07)
Between 2018-12-22 and 2019-1-2 TRY data output will be suspended (link)

Activity Report (2018-12-03)
In November 2018, TRY received 176 requests and released 22.5 million trait data for 163 requests (new record); 4 new publications were reported. This brings the totals to 5411 received requests, 523 million trait records released for 4471 requests, and 206 recorded publications (link)

Paper published (2018-11-21)
Jimenez-Rodríguez et al.: Structural and functional traits predict short term response of tropical dry forests to a high intensity hurricane. Forest Ecology and Management. (link)

Half a Billion (2018-10-23)
As of 2018-10-23, TRY has released half a billion (500 million) trait records. (link)

Paper published (2018-10-18)
Byun and Lee: Giant Ragweed Invasion is Not Well Controlled by Biotic Resistance. Journal of Plant Biology. (link)

News Archive

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Global trait–environment relationships of plant communities

__Plant functional traits directly affect ecosystem functions. At the species level, trait combinations depend on trade-offs representing different ecological strategies, but at the community level trait combinations are expected to be decoupled from these trade-offs because different strategies can facilitate co-existence within communities. A key question is to what extent community-level trait composition is globally filtered and how well it is related to global versus local environmental drivers. Here, the authors perform a global, plot-level analysis of trait–environment relationships, using a database with more than 1.1 million vegetation plots and 26,632 plant species with trait information. Although the authors find a strong filtering of 17 functional traits, similar climate conditions support communities differing greatly in mean trait values. The results indicate that, at fine spatial grain, macro-environmental drivers are much less important for functional trait composition than has been assumed from floristic analyses of large grid cells. Instead, trait combinations seem to be predominantly filtered by local-scale factors such as disturbance, soil conditions, niche partitioning and biotic interactions. (Bruelheide et al. 2018 Nature Ecology and Evolution)

A methodology to derive global maps of leaf traits using remote sensing and climate data

__This paper introduces a modular processing chain to derive global high-resolution maps of leaf traits. The paper presents global maps at 500 m resolution of specific leaf area, leaf dry matter content, leaf nitrogen and phosphorus content per dry mass, and leaf nitrogen/phosphorus ratio. The processing chain exploits machine learning techniques along with optical remote sensing data (MODIS/Landsat) and climate data for gap filling and up-scaling of in-situ measured leaf traits. (Moreno-Martinez et al. 2018 Remote Sensing of Environment)

Plant functional trait change across a warming tundra biome

__Until now, the Arctic tundra has been the domain of low-growing grasses and dwarf shrubs. Defying the harsh conditions, these plants huddle close to the ground and often grow only a few centimeters high. But new, taller plant species have been slowly taking over this chilly neighborhood, report an international group of nearly 130 biologists led by scientists from the German Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) today in Nature. This has led to an overall increase in the height of tundra plant communities over the past three decades. (Bjorkman et al. 2018 Nature)

Late Quaternary climate legacies in contemporary plant functional composition

__Climate may determine functional composition if there is variation in the rates of immigration and exclusion linked to functional traits. The authors show strong Pleistocene legacies on the contemporary functional composition in the New World plant assemblages consistent with slow community assembly processes. (Blonder et al. 2018 Global Change Biology)

AGU 2018 Session: Plant Traits, Biogeochemical Cycles and Optimality Driven Model Development (B11E posters, B13D oral)

__A session on plant traits at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) 10-14 Dec 2018 in Washington, D.C., titled: "Plant Traits, Biogeochemical Cycles and Optimality Driven Model Development". Plant traits extend the range of earth observations to the level of individual organisms, providing a link to ecosystem function and modeling in the context of rapid global changes. However, overcoming the differences in temporal and spatial scales between plant trait data and biogeochemical cycles remains a challenge. This session will address the role of plant species, biodiversity, acclimation and adaptation in the biogeochemical cycles of water, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. Conceptual, observational, experimental and modeling approaches, and studies from the local to the global scale, including e.g. remote sensing observations are welcome.

Symbiont switching and alternative resource acquisition strategies drive mutualism breakdown

__Cooperative interactions among species—mutualisms—are major sources of evolutionary innovation. However, despite their importance, two species that formerly cooperated sometimes cease their partnership. Why do mutualisms break down? We asked this question in the partnership between arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi and their plant hosts, one of the most ancient mutualisms. We analyze two potential trajectories toward evolutionary breakdown of their cooperation, symbiont switching and mutualism abandonment. We find evidence that plants stop interacting with AM fungi when they switch to other microbial mutualists or when they evolve alternative strategies to extract nutrients from the environment. Our results show vital cooperative interactions can be lost, but only if successful alternatives evolve. (Werner et al. 2018 PNAS)

Future global productivity will be affected by plant trait response to climate

__Plant traits are both responsive to local climate and strong predictors of primary productivity. The authors hypothesized that future climate change might promote a shift in global plant traits resulting in changes in Gross Primary Productivity (GPP). They characterized the relationship between key plant traits, local climate and primary productivity. Using a network of tower eddy covariance CO2 flux measurements and the extrapolated plant trait maps, they predict that by 2070 annual GPP in northern biomes (≥45 °N) will increase by 31% (+8.1 ± 0.5 Pg C), but this will be offset by a 17.9% GPP decline in the tropics (−11.8 ± 0.84 Pg C). These findings suggest that regional climate changes will affect plant trait distributions, which may in turn affect global productivity patterns. (Madani et al. 2018 Scientific Reports)

Advances in flowering phenology across the Northern Hemisphere are explained by functional traits

__Numerous studies have reported changes in first flowering day (FFD-changes) in response to changes in climate. However, regarding the direction (advances versus delays) and the intensity of FFD-changes, species show differences even when observed in the same location. Patrizia König, Susanne Tautenhahn, Christine Römermann and coauthors compiled literature data from eighteen sites distributed over the Northern Hemisphere for 562 species (published in Global Ecology and Biogeography). They related FFD-changes to changes in climate, to local site conditions and plant traits. Of all FDD-changes, 80.4% were FFD-advances, 10.5% exceeding 5 days/decade. FFD-advances were strongest in polar tundra and in dry and warm habitats. The intensity of FFD-advances (number of days/decade) could be explained by predictor variables from all three groups. Overall, decreasing precipitation was more important than increasing temperature. Traits related to competition and growth rate contributed substantially to explain variation of FFD-change intensity, with highest importance for trees and grasses, while for herbs they were of equal importance with changes in climate. For shrubs, site conditions best explained the variation of FFD-advance intensities. (König et al. 2018 Global Ecology and Biogeography)

Global leaf nitrogen and phosphorus stoichiometry and their scaling exponent

__Leaf nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations reflect photosynthetic and metabolic processes, growth, and productivity of plants. In this study (published in National Science Review) Tian Di and coauthors compiled a global data set of leaf N and P concentrations and N:P ratios. The global overall mean leaf N and P concentrations show higher concentrations in herbaceous than woody plants. Both leaf N and P showed higher concentrations at high than low latitudes. The scaling exponents of N:P concentrations of herbaceous and woody plants were 0.659 and 0.705, respectively, with significant latitudinal patterns decreasing from tropical to temperate to boreal zones. At sites with a sample size > 9, the values fluctuated from 0.366 to 1.928, with an average of 0.841. (Tian et al. 2017 National Science Review)

Spatial patterns and climate relationships of major plant traits in the New World differ between woody and herbaceous species

__A new paper by Irena Simova and Coauthors, published in Journal of Biogeography, reports that trait variations of woody and herbaceous assemblages seem to reflect alternative strategies and differing environmental constraints. Using the largest currently available databases of plant occurrences and traits, they provide maps of 200 × 200 km grid-cell trait means and variances for both woody and herbaceous species and identify environmental drivers related to these patterns. They focus for six plant traits: maximum plant height, specific leaf area, seed mass, wood density, leaf nitrogen concentration and leaf phosphorus concentration. They find a strong climate signal for both means and variances of most of the studied traits for woody plants, consistent with strong environmental filtering. In contrast, for herbaceous assemblages, spatial patterns of trait means and variances are more variable and the climate signal is often different and weaker. (Simova et al. 2018 Journal of Biogeography)

Mapping local and global variability in plant trait distributions

__A new paper by Ethan Butler et al. has been published in PNAS, providing global maps of plant trait distributions. Using data from the TRY database and state of the art Bayesian modeling, the authors created fine-grained global maps of plant trait distributions that can be applied to Earth system models. Focusing on a set of plant traits closely coupled to photosynthesis and foliar respiration - specific leaf area and dry mass-based concentrations of leaf nitrogen and phosphorus - they characterize how traits vary within and among over 50,000 50x50 km cells across the entire vegetated land surface. The maps reveal that the most diverse grid cells possess trait variability close to the range of global means. (Butler et al. 2017 PNAS)

TRY 4.0 - the new release of the TRY database

__The new release of the TRY Database (TRY version 4.0) has been published in July 2017. It is based on 329 contributed datasets and provides 6.9 million trait records for 148,333 plant taxa (mostly species) and 1832 traits. In addition TRY version 4 is based on an improved data curation: Taxon names are consolidated against The Plant List using the Taxon Name Resolution Service. Traits are defined according to the Thesaurus Of Plant Characteristics.

Disclaimer Page calls: 303091 Gerhard Boenisch, Jens Kattge, created 2012-01-11, modified 2018-02-09