Observatory’s researchers contribute to the world-wide TRY plant trait database
TRY is the main plant trait database used by the research community worldwide. Tartu Obseratory’s Senior Research Fellow Jan Pisek is responsible for two publicly available TRY datasets, which include important information to help understand vegetation canopy processes.
Researcher Cyrille Violle and colleagues have stated that plant traits help us learn about the morphological, anatomical, physiological, biochemical and phenological characteristics of plants measurable at the individual plant level. According to the introductory paper of TRY, the availability of plant trait data in the unified global database is expected to shift the focus of modern ecology from species to traits. The database also provides new opportunities for synthetic plant trait research and enables a more realistic and empirically grounded representation of terrestrial vegetation in Earth system models.
Our databases requested over 200 times last year
“For me as a contributor, the TRY database offers a very effective way of sharing my data and promoting my research within the wider community,” said Pisek. He stated that in 2019, the databases he is responsible for were requested more than 200 times by other researchers. “This is great, as my data is useful for other people who may find possible links with other traits and phenomena I alone would not even have thought of.”
Pisek’s datasets include information about leaf angle inclination distribution. This is a key parameter in models useful for understanding vegetation canopy processes of photosynthesis, evapotranspiration, radiation transmission, and spectral reflectance.
The first database that Pisek manages (TRY DatasetID: 321) includes extensive data on leaf angle distributions for 58 deciduous broadleaf tree species, which are commonly found in temperate and boreal ecoclimatic regions. The original data came from a paper Pisek and colleagues published in 2013 in Agricultural and Forest Meteorology.
The second contribution (TRY DatasetID: 417) includes information on seasonal variations of leaf angle distributions for eight deciduous broadleaf tree species, which are commonly found in temperate and hemiboreal ecoclimatic regions of Europe and North America. The leaf angles were measured at several heights throughout the growing seasons of 2011 and 2013. This data was first used in a research paper co-authored by Pisek and published in Agricultural and Forest Meteorology in 2015.
“Besides these two, I and my PhD student Kairi Adamson also contributed to another dataset included in TRY by Francesco Chianucci,” Pisek stated. This third dataset contains extensive information on leaf inclination angles for 138 deciduous broadleaf woody species. All three datasets are public and free for anyone to use.
What is new with TRY in 2020?
The recent overview paper by coordinator of the TRY initiative Jens Kattge and colleagues including Pisek was published in the January 2020 issue of Global Change Biology. The paper came to be at the time of TRY transitioning into its third generation. The first generation database was not available to the wider public. During the second generation, many datasets, including the ones Pisek and colleagues had provided, were added to TRY and increased the size of the database. In 2014, the number of users stepped up noticeably due to outside users gaining controlled access to TRY. The third generation database is open to the public.
The new article also highlights data gaps and biases in the TRY database that remain a key challenge and require a coordinated approach to data mobilization and trait measurements. Pisek added that the paper also helps to identify areas and plant traits that would be good to cover next.
Jan Pisek and the collection of data made available in TRY database was supported by the Estonian Research Council grants PUT232, PUT1355, Mobilitas Pluss MOBERC-11, and the funding from the FP7-Marie Curie Actions programme, Estonian Research Council grant ERMOS32.