TRY: a global database of plant traits
Plant traits the morphological, anatomical, physiological, biochemical and phenological characteristics of plants andtheir 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 andfunctional ecology to biogeography. Here we present the global database initiative named TRY, which has united awide range of the plant trait research community worldwide and gained an unprecedented buy-in of trait data: so far93 trait databases have been contributed. The data repository currently contains almost three million trait entries for69 000 out of the worlds 300 000 plant species, with a focus on 52 groups of traits characterizing the vegetative andregeneration stages of the plant life cycle, including growth, dispersal, establishment and persistence. A first dataanalysis shows that most plant traits are approximately log-normally distributed, with widely differing ranges ofvariation across traits. Most trait variation is between species (interspecific), but significant intraspecific variation isalso documented, up to 40% of the overall variation. Plant functional types (PFTs), as commonly used in vegetationmodels, capture a substantial fraction of the observed variation but for several traits most variation occurs withinPFTs, up to 75% of the overall variation. In the context of vegetation models these traits would better be represented bystate variables rather than fixed parameter values. The improved availability of plant trait data in the unified globaldatabase is expected to support a paradigm shift from species to trait-based ecology, offer new opportunities forsynthetic plant trait research and enable a more realistic and empirically grounded representation of terrestrialvegetation in Earth system models.