• A personal note on IGBP and the social sciences

    Humans are an integral component of the Earth system as conceptualised by IGBP. João Morais recalls key milestones in IGBP’s engagement with the social sciences and offers some words of advice for Future Earth.
  • IGBP and Earth observation:
    a co-evolution

    The iconic images of Earth beamed back by the earliest spacecraft helped to galvanise interest in our planet’s environment. The subsequent evolution and development of satellites for Earth observation has been intricately linked with that of IGBP and other global-change research programmes, write Jack Kaye and Cat Downy .

TRY – a global database of plant traits

Global Change Biology (2011)
Kattge J, Diaz S, Lavorel S, Prentice I C, Leadley P, Bonisch G, Garnier E, Westoby M, Reich P B, Wright I J, Cornelissen J H C, Violle C, Harrison S P, van Bodegom P M, Reichstein M, Enquist B J,Soudzilovskaia  N A, Ackerly D D, Anand M, Atkin O, Bahn M, Baker TR, Baldocchi D, Bekker R, Blanco CC, Blonder B, Bond W J, Bradstock R, Bunker D E, Casanoves F , Cavender-Bares J, Chambers J Q, Chapin III F S, Chave J, Coomes D, Cornwell W K, Craine J M, Dorbin B H, Duarte L, Durka W, Elser J, Esser G, Estiarte M, Fagan W F, Fang J, Fernandez-Mendez F, Fidelis A, Finegan B, Flores O, Ford H, Frank D, Freschet G T, Fyllas N M, Gallaghar R V, Green W A, Gutierrez A G, Hickler T, Higgins S I, Hodgson J G, Jalili A, Jansen S, Joly C A, Kerkhoff A J, Kirkup D, Kitajima K, Kleyer M, Klotz S, Knops J M H, Kramer K, Kuhn I, Kurokawa H, Laughlin D, Lee T D, Leishman M, Lens F, Lenz T, Lewis S L, Lloyd J, Llusia J, Louault F, Ma S, Mahecha M D, Manning P, Massad T, Medlyn B E, Messier J, Moles A T, Muller S C, Nadrowski K, Naeem S, Niinemets U, Nollert S, Nuske A, Ogaya R, Oleksyn J, Onipchenko V G, Onoda Y, Ordonez J, Overbeck G, Ozinga W A, Patino S, Paula S, Pausas J G, Penuelas J, Phillips O L, Pillar V, Poorter H, Poorter L, Poschlod P, Prinzing A, Proulx R, Ramming A, Reinsch S, Reu B, Sack L, Salgado-Negret B, Sardans J, Shiodera S, Shipley B, Siefert A, Sosinski E,  Soussana J-F, Swaine E, Swenson N, Thompson K, Thornton P, Waldram M, Weiher E, White M, White S, Wright S J, Yguel B, Zaehle S, Zanne A E and Wirth C
DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02451
Vol 17: Issue 9; pp. 2905-2935

Plant traits – the morphological, anatomical, physiological, biochemical and phenological characteristics of plants and their organs – determine how primary producers respond to environmental factors, affect other trophic levels, influence ecosystem processes and services and provide a link from species richness to ecosystem functional diversity. Trait data thus represent the raw material for a wide range of research from evolutionary biology, community and functional ecology to biogeography. Here we present the global database initiative named TRY, which has united a wide range of the plant trait research community worldwide and gained an unprecedented buy-in of trait data: so far 93 trait databases have been contributed. The data repository currently contains almost three million trait entries for 69 000 out of the world's 300 000 plant species, with a focus on 52 groups of traits characterizing the vegetative and regeneration stages of the plant life cycle, including growth, dispersal, establishment and persistence. A first data analysis shows that most plant traits are approximately log-normally distributed, with widely differing ranges of variation across traits. Most trait variation is between species (interspecific), but significant intraspecific variation is also documented, up to 40% of the overall variation. Plant functional types (PFTs), as commonly used in vegetation models, capture a substantial fraction of the observed variation – but for several traits most variation occurs within PFTs, up to 75% of the overall variation. In the context of vegetation models these traits would better be represented by state variables rather than fixed parameter values. The improved availability of plant trait data in the unified global database is expected to support a paradigm shift from species to trait-based ecology, offer new opportunities for synthetic plant trait research and enable a more realistic and empirically grounded representation of terrestrial vegetation in Earth system models.

Share this page
Tell a friend (opens in new window)
Follow us

Please note!

IGBP closed at the end of 2015. This website is no longer updated.

No events available

  • Global Change Magazine No. 84

    This final issue of the magazine takes stock of IGBP’s scientific and institutional accomplishments as well as its contributions to policy and capacity building. It features interviews of several past...

  • Global Change Magazine No. 83

    This issue features a special section on carbon. You can read about peak greenhouse-gas emissions in China, the mitigation of black carbon emissions and the effect of the 2010-2011 La Niña event on gl...