Florian D. Schneider

Towards an Ecological Trait-data Standard

by  Schneider, F. D., M. Jochum, G. L. Provost, A. Ostrowski, C. Penone, D. Fichtmüller, A. Güntsch, M. M. Gossner, B. König-Ries, P. Manning, and N. K. Simons.

Published: 31 May 2018
In: bioRxiv
doi: 10.1101/328302

Now published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution doi: 10.1111/2041-210X.13288


  1. Trait-based approaches are widespread throughout ecological research, offering great potential for trait data to deliver general and mechanistic conclusions. Accordingly,a wealth of trait data is available for many organism groups, but, due to a lack of standardisation, these data come in heterogeneous formats.

  2. We review current initiatives and infrastructures for standardising trait data and discuss the importance of standardisation for trait data hosted in distributed open-access repositories.

  3. In order to facilitate the standardisation and harmonisation of distributed trait datasets, we propose a general and simple vocabulary as well as a simple data structure for storing and sharing ecological trait data.

  4. Additionally, we provide an R-package that enables the transformation of any tabular dataset into the proposed format. This also allows trait datasets from heterogeneous sources to be harmonised and merged, thus facilitating data compilation for any particular research focus.

  5. With these decentralised tools for trait-data harmonisation, we intend to facilitate the exchange and analysis of trait data within ecological research and enable global syntheses of traits across a wide range of taxa and ecosystems.

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