Florian D. Schneider

Towards an Ecological Trait-data Standard

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

Published: 19 August 2019
In: Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 10:2006-2019
doi: 10.1111/2041-210X.13288


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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