sPlot is the name of a working group resulting from the first meeting of the Synthesis Centre (sDiv) of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). The acronym combines “s” from the synthesis perspective of all sDiv workshops with “plot” standing for the first representative global vegetation-plot database that will be established by the working group as a core tool address the sPlot aims. Presently, the sPlot Consortium has more than 100 members from all around the world.
The sPlot database is the first vegetation-plot database with global coverage and standardised plant nomenclature and header data. It is managed by Stephan Hennekens with the software TURBOVEG 3. According to the sPlot Rules, the use of the sPlot data is restricted to author teams led by an sPlot Consortium member.
sPlot cooperates closely with the global trait database TRY. Accordingly, trait data newly gathered during the assembly of the sPlot database will be included in and handled by TRY. sPlot releases are connected to a nomenclatural matched and gap-filled version of TRY 5.0. Since the cleaning and standardisation of the sPlot data and the matching with TRY is a time consuming process as well as because we want to achieve best possible repeatability and comparability of results of sPlot-based studies, we intend to release sPlot in fixed versions approximately every 18 months.
The trait composition of plant communities is determined by abiotic, biotic and historical factors. However, the relative strength of macro-climatic factors in explaining trait-environment relationships at the local scale remains unclear. With the aim to achieve a better understanding, this first sDiv meeting assembled a unique group of vegetation-plot data holders and data analysts. Our main objective is to assess the relative importance of macroclimate in explaining trait variation in local plant communities worldwide. Specifically, the following questions shall be answered: (i) To which extent are relationships between traits preserved across environmental gradients worldwide, irrespective of macro climate? (ii) To which degree is the effect of local (abiotic and biotic) drivers mediated by climate? Such knowledge becomes highly relevant to devise local management measures to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, i.e. temperature increase or precipitation decrease.