Meeting III

Plant trait-environment relationships, biodiversity and invasion patterns across the world's biomes

PIs: Prof Dr Jürgen Dengler (University of Bayreuth) & Dr Oliver Purschke (iDiv)

The sPlot III workshop took place at the iDiv headquarters in Leipzig, Germany, from 24th to 28th October 2016.

Helge Bruelheide; Milan Chytrý; Valério De Patta Pillar; Jürgen Dengler; Richard Field; Sylvia Haider; Ute Jandt; Florian Jansen; Borja Jiménez-Alfaro; Jens Kattge; Jonathan Lenoir; Miguel Mahecha; Robert Peet; Oliver Purschke; Franziska Schrodt; Maria Sporbert; Peter van Bodegom; Masha van der Sande; Marten Winter

The sDiv project sPlot originally was aimed at analysing the plant trait-environment relationships across the world’s biomes. After two workshops (March 2013, December 2014) and with the recent release of the sPlot 2.0 database in January 2016 we still pursue this original aim but have widened our scope based on the unique data source we created. sPlot 2.0 contains >1.1 million vegetation plots from 130 countries and all seven continents plus a taxonomic backbone that has been successfully matched with a gap-filled version of the global plant trait database TRY for 18 major functional traits. The small-grained, geo-referenced co-occurrence data at the global extent, in combination with the available trait data, opens new avenues for addressing fundamental questions of functional biogeography, community assembly, diversity patterns, invasion biology and macroecology.

During the sPlot workshop III (and the pre-workshop one week earlier), the working group finally made the database fit for the first series of analyses by removing last inconsistencies in the content, such as some errors in coordinates, cleaning species data (including separation of non-vascular plants), harmonizing and completing header data information (such as formation and degree of naturalness) and adding a series of standardised header data (climate, soil, assignment to a new 10-biome classification, biogeographic realm). This resulted in the now available sPlot 2.1, comprising 1,121,244 plots, which can be analysed together or separately for biomes or forests vs. grasslands, to name just a few of the readily implemented options.


sPlot 2.1: spatial distribution of plots and schema of data aggregation.

The main part of the workshop was then devoted to advancing six paper projects. The 19 participants from seven countries and three continents worked in outbreak group to refine the theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches for these, carried out already large parts of the analyses, discussed the outlines of the manuscripts and started writing them up. These first papers thus likely will become ready for submission within few months. Their topics are: (a) a data paper, describing the content and the opportunities of the sPlot 2.1 database; (b) a methodological paper, presenting a sub-sampling approach that allows to gain more balanced subsets of plots out of sPlot that overcome spatially unequal sampling intensity; (c) a study that relates community-weighted means and variances of plant functional traits to macroclimatic drivers globally; (d) a study that quantifies how trait diversity is influenced by short-, medium- and long-term climatic variability; (e) a study aiming at quantifying how similar/dissimilar successful invaders are from their recipient community (and other, less successful aliens) in terms of traits and phylogenetic position; and (f) an analysis how communities of different composition/diversity varied in their productivity responses to extreme events (in terms of very low or very high precipitation) in recent decades.

During the last day, responsibilities and schedules for finalisation of all these papers were agreed upon. Moreover, we discussed about one dozen additional paper ideas that had originated shortly before or during the workshop. We solved several organisational issues of the sPlot Consortium and finally defined priorities and requirements for the expansion of the sPlot database towards the release 3.0, planned for the second half of 2017. Three and a half years after the initiation of the sPlot working group and at the end of five intensive days, the participants all felt that now everything is nicely in place and we can expect a first series of great papers to be submitted in the near future, that then will give rise to many more ideas for which the iDiv platform sPlot can provide a novel data source of unprecedented quality.


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