New Database of Plant Traits Emerges as Tool in Climate Studies

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A consortium of scientists has compiled a database that categorizes millions of traits for nearly a quarter of the world’s plant species, a resource they say will help researchers more accurately model the effects of climate change in different environments.

The project, known as TRY, has so far compiled plant traits, including structural and physiological properties, for more than 69,000 of the planet’s 300,000 known plant species.

Those traits determine how plants compete for light, water, and soil resources; where they grow; and how fast they grow.

Project organizers say the resource will be an essential tool for biodiversity research and earth-system sciences, particularly as scientists attempt to understand the effects of climate change on ecosystems.

“This huge advance in data availability will lead to more reliable predictions of how vegetation boundaries and ecosystem properties will shift under future climate and land use change scenarios,” said Ian Wright, a biologist at Macquarie University in Australia.

The first set of data, which includes the work of scientists from 106 research institutions, will be published in the journal Global Change Biology.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

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