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Data from: Integration and harmonization of trait data from plant individuals across heterogeneous sources

Citation

Lenters, Tim P. et al. (2020), Data from: Integration and harmonization of trait data from plant individuals across heterogeneous sources, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.tdz08kpz0

Abstract

Trait data represent the basis for ecological and evolutionary research and have relevance for biodiversity conservation, ecosystem management and earth system modelling. The collection and mobilization of trait data has strongly increased over the last decade, but many trait databases still provide only species-level, aggregated trait values (e.g. ranges, means) and lack the direct observations on which those data are based. Thus, the vast majority of trait data measured directly from individuals remains hidden and highly heterogeneous, impeding their discoverability, semantic interoperability, digital accessibility and (re-)use. Here, we integrate quantitative measurements of verbatim trait information from plant individuals (e.g. lengths, widths, counts and angles of stems, leaves, fruits and inflorescence parts) from multiple sources such as field observations and herbarium collections. We develop a workflow to harmonize heterogeneous trait measurements (e.g. trait names and their values and units) as well as additional information related to taxonomy, measurement or fact and occurrence. This data integration and harmonization builds on vocabularies and terminology from existing metadata standards and ontologies such as the Ecological Trait-data Standard (ETS), the Darwin Core (DwC), the Thesaurus Of Plant characteristics (TOP) and the Plant Trait Ontology (TO). A metadata form filled out by data providers enables the automated integration of trait information from heterogeneous datasets. We illustrate our tools with data from palms (family Arecaceae), a globally distributed (pantropical), diverse plant family that is considered a good model system for understanding the ecology and evolution of tropical rainforests. We mobilize nearly 140,000 individual palm trait measurements in an interoperable format, identify semantic gaps in existing plant trait terminology and provide suggestions for the future development of a thesaurus of plant characteristics. Our work thereby promotes the semantic integration of plant trait data in a machine-readable way and shows how large amounts of small trait data sets and their metadata can be integrated into standardized data products.

Methods

Data integration of individual trait measurements from multiple sources such as field observations and herbarium collections

Usage Notes

See the Readme file and the accompanying publication in Ecological Informatics for details.

Funding

Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Award: 824.15.007

Universiteit van Amsterdam, Award: starting grant

Universiteit van Amsterdam, Award: Faculty Research Cluster ‘Global Ecology’