Towards an ecological trait‐data standard

Schneider, Florian D.; Fichtmueller, David; Gossner, Martin M.; Güntsch, Anton; Jochum, Malte; König‐Ries, Birgitta; Le Provost, Gaëtane; Manning, Peter; Ostrowski, Andreas; Penone, Caterina; Simons, Nadja K.; Orme, David (2019). Towards an ecological trait‐data standard. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 10(12), pp. 2006-2019. Wiley-Blackwell 10.1111/2041-210X.13288

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Trait-based approaches are widespread throughout ecological research as they offer great potential to achieve a general understanding of a wide range of ecological and evolutionary mechanisms. Accordingly, a wealth of trait data is available for many organism groups, but this data is underexploited due to a lack of standardization and heterogeneity in data formats and definitions. We review current initiatives and structures developed for standardizing trait data and discuss the importance of standardization for trait data hosted in distributed open-access repositories. In order to facilitate the standardization and harmonization of distributed trait datasets by data providers and data users, we propose a standardized vocabulary that can be used for storing and sharing ecological trait data. We discuss potential incentives and challenges for the wide adoption of such a standard by data providers. The use of a standard vocabulary allows for trait datasets from heterogeneous sources to be aggregated more easily into compilations and facilitates the creation of interfaces between software tools for trait-data handling and analysis. By aiding decentralized trait-data standardization, our vocabulary may ease data integration and use of trait data for a broader ecological research community and enable global syntheses across a wide range of taxa and ecosystems.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Review Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Plant Ecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

Jochum, Malte, Manning, Peter, Penone, Caterina


500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)








Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

05 Nov 2019 13:25

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:31

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

data standardization; ecoinformatics; functional ecology; ontologies; semantic web; species traits




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