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Photos & texts by Sabina Burrascano is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Italy License.
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Plant functional traits web databases

Our planet hosts an incredible number of seed plants. Published estimates varied between about 231.000 and 320.000 but the latest  global checklist  rise this number up to 400.000 (see http://www.jstor.org/pss/1224723).

The incredible diversity of plants is gorgeous, however it poses relevant problems to who wants to study them. The fact that after learning everything about one plant species you got to know only 1/400.000 of the whole world flora is not encouraging, especially when topics become more and more global.

Plant functional traits help plant ecologist to compare and generalize their results. Plant functional traits are those traits strictly related to plant functions. The underlying concept is that two species with the same traits (growth form, the same height, leaves similar in functions, similar dispersal strategy, etc.) have the same role in the ecosystem.

The great variety of plants poses new problems. In an average database you face at least hundreds of species and, even if functional traits are often easy to measure, the availability of them for each sampled species is not so common.

This is the reason why scientists are starting sharing their data on functional traits through the web.

Anyway, it is not easy to find what you are looking for. Recently I spend some time browsing the web for answers on plant functional traits and this is what I found.

I started from the IAVS Ecoinformatics webpage (http://www.bio.unc.edu/faculty/peet/vegdata/resources.htm). Many of the reported links are not working anymore. A great database I found through that page though is LEDA (http://www.leda-traitbase.org/LEDAportal/). Here you can find a huge number of species that occur also in Northern Europe. You can happen to find some reference to Bioflor, a German database that can be bought for 25 euros, however according to Leda information it should be included in the latter.

Working in Italy my database include species that are not in Northern Europe. This step was much harder yet finally I found BROT (http://www.uv.es/jgpausas/brot.htm) a database for the Mediterranean Basin.

Browsing I also found this: http://vege1.kan.ynu.ac.jp/traits/PlantTraitAsia.pdf not very useful for me but can come in handy somehow.

I’m still looking for something else…I still don’t have full coverage for my dataset, so I accept any suggestion. Keep in mind…it is not a piece of cake…you will find differently structured dataset and will face hundreds of nomenclature problems (check IOPI for synonyms http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/iopi/iopihome.htm)…a unique database is still a dream for the moment.

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