Ecological Traits of New Zealand Flora
This database of ecological traits, linked to Landcare Research's suite of databases related to plant systematics, is designed as a one-stop-shop for questions such as 'what kind of plant is this?', 'is it a weed?', 'does it produce viable seeds?', 'how is the seed dispersed?'.
Plant traits are simple attributes such as leaf size, leaf nutrient concentrations and seed size. Often these traits are straightforward to collect and yet they can be a useful proxy for whole-plant strategy. Over the last decade a number of high-profile syntheses have identified major axes of variation in plant trait data that correspond to large-scale differences among types of plant species.
In New Zealand, a great deal of plant trait data have been collected by a number of researchers with varying purposes. To safeguard these data in the long-term, our goal is to provide a database where plant trait data can be archived electronically and in hard copy. Management of this database will be similar to NVS with metadata being publicly available and with datasets being available under conditions chosen by the data owner. Our experience with NVS has indicated that once data are organised in a central location, opportunities for collaborative synthesis across datasets will arise.
One of the challenges in achieving our goal is to develop a database that is sufficiently flexible to allow raw (granular) data to be captured across all of the datasets. While a few trait datasets contain a single value for a trait reported against a species name, the majority involve replicated trait values for a species, and often these replicates are linked to individuals at a site or to herbarium specimens or to an experimental treatment. Meaningful syntheses of these trait data require this auxiliary data. We are currently gathering information on dataset structures from a number of several research teams within Landcare Research and from the literature in order to characterise a range of complex dataset structures that need to be included in the database design.