Meta-data analysis of plant trait databases: how are such databases used and how can they be improved?

Elizabeth Donkin, John Warren, Peter Dennis, Amanda Clare

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Ecological trait databases are valuable resources providing data that documents how species interact with each other and their wider environment. Research interest in such databases has proliferated and they have been successfully used to address ecological questions at local and global scales, with functional trait biology being the most prominent research area. Despite being such valuable resources, ecological databases tend to be under-resourced. Additionally they often have uncertain data quality and access restrictions due to data permissions that hamper their use by a wider audience and for a wider range of research objectives. There remain improvements that can be made to plant trait databases, with respect to data quality and the number of researchers that can use them. Here we present a case study of the plant trait database EcoFlora, a database with a suite of 132 ecological traits describing over 3000 plant species native to Britain. Through analysis of usage metrics and data associated with individual data requests, we established the current state of usage, documented frequently used traits and those that are under-used or fail to be recorded in associated research publications. From the information gained from this analysis, we present guidance on the structure and management for existing and new plant trait databases, using the lessons learnt from EcoFlora and other existing plant trait resources. Additionally, we discuss possible strategies to fund, maintain and prolong plant trait databasessuch as EcoFlora as an up-to-date data resource for researchers.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2016
EventBritish Ecological Society: Annual Meeting - ACC Liverpool Kings Dock, Liverpool L3 4FP, Liverpool, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Duration: 11 Dec 201614 Dec 2016


ConferenceBritish Ecological Society
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Period11 Dec 201614 Dec 2016
Internet address


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