sPlot Meetings and Workshops

The sPlot Consortium was established and developed during three Workshops held at the iDiv headquarters in Leipzig, Germany, between 2014 and 2016.

Meeting I

From 6th to 9th March 2013, 42 researchers comprising representatives of large plot and trait databases, specialists in plant community ecology, macroecology and global change ecology as well as experts in biodiversity informatics and advanced statistical methods gathered in Leipzig. During four intensive days, they discussed analytical approaches, defined requirements for data to be used in the analyses, planned the coming activities and last but not least coined “sPlot” as acronym for the sDiv working group.

Richard Field, Vanessa Minden, Valério Pillar, Jürgen Dengler, Sylvia Haider, Colleen Webb, Franziska Schrodt, Milan Chytry, Miguel Mahecha, Nathan Swenson, Jens Kattge, Thomas Hickler, Ingolf Kühn, Simon Scheiter, Michael Kleyer, Oliver Tackenberg, Oliver Purschke, Helge Bruelheide, Florian Jansen, Stefan Klotz, Jan Leps, Ute Jandt, Christine Römermann, Jonathan Lenoir, Marco Schmidt, Brody Sandel, Marten Winter, Yue Lin, Erik Welk, Joop Schaminée, Peter Poschlod, Eric Garnier, Cyrille Violle, Andreу Korolyuk, Sandra Díaz, Brian Enquist, Robert K. Peet, Steven Higgings, Francesco de Bello, Gabriela Lopez-Gonzalez, Peter van Bodegom

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Meeting II

When a reasonable data coverage across the world’s biomes was achieved (sPlot 1.0 with 840,000 plots), we organised the second Meeting from 2nd to 5th December 2014 at the iDiv headquarters in Leipzig, Germany. 28 scientists from nine countries and four continents used this test version of sPlot and its intersection with the TRY trait database to develop and test promising analytical approaches and to draft outlines of the first series of sPlot publications, planned for 2015.

Helge Bruelheide (Martin Luther University Halle/Saale), Jonathan Chase (iDiv), Milan Chytrý (Masaryk University), Jürgen Dengler (iDiv), Richard Field (University of Nottingham), Stan Harpole (iDiv), Ute Jandt (Martin Luther University Halle/Saale), Florian Jansen (University of Greifswald), Borja Jiménez-Alfaro (Masaryk University), Norbert Jürgens (Universität Hamburg), Jens Kattge (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry), Tiffany Knight (iDiv), Hjalmar Kühl (iDiv), Jonathan Lenoir (University Picardie Jules Verne), Miguel Mahecha (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry), Robert Peet (University of North Carolina), Valerio De Patta Pillar (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul), Oliver Purschke (iDiv), Christine Römermann (Friedrich Schiller University Jena), Brody Sandel (Aarhus University), Marco Schmidt (Senckenberg Institute), Franziska Schrodt (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry), Anita Smyth (The University of Adelaide), Nathan Swenson (Michigan State University), Peter van Bodegom (VU University Amsterdam), Cyrille Violle (CNRS), Marten Winter (iDiv)

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.

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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