Global root traits (GRooT) database

Nathaly R. Guerrero-Ramírez, Liesje Mommer, Grégoire T. Freschet, Colleen M. Iversen, M. Luke McCormack, Jens Kattge, Hendrik Poorter, Fons van der Plas, Joana Bergmann, Thom W. Kuyper, Larry M. York, Helge Bruelheide, Daniel C. Laughlin, Ina C. Meier, Catherine Roumet, Marina Semchenko, Christopher J. Sweeney, Jasper van Ruijven, Oscar J. Valverde-Barrantes, Isabelle AubinJane A. Catford, Peter Manning, Adam Martin, Rubén Milla, Vanessa Minden, Juli G. Pausas, Stuart W. Smith, Nadejda A. Soudzilovskaia, Christian Ammer, Bradley Butterfield, Joseph Craine, Johannes H.C. Cornelissen, Franciska T. de Vries, Marney E. Isaac, Koen Kramer, Christian König, Eric G. Lamb, Vladimir G. Onipchenko, Josep Peñuelas, Peter B. Reich, Matthias C. Rillig, Lawren Sack, Bill Shipley, Leho Tedersoo, Fernando Valladares, Peter van Bodegom, Patrick Weigelt, Justin P. Wright, Alexandra Weigelt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Motivation: Trait data are fundamental to the quantitative description of plant form and function. Although root traits capture key dimensions related to plant responses to changing environmental conditions and effects on ecosystem processes, they have rarely been included in large-scale comparative studies and global models. For instance, root traits remain absent from nearly all studies that define the global spectrum of plant form and function. Thus, to overcome conceptual and methodological roadblocks preventing a widespread integration of root trait data into large-scale analyses we created the Global Root Trait (GRooT) Database. GRooT provides ready-to-use data by combining the expertise of root ecologists with data mobilization and curation. Specifically, we (a) determined a set of core root traits relevant to the description of plant form and function based on an assessment by experts, (b) maximized species coverage through data standardization within and among traits, and (c) implemented data quality checks. Main types of variables contained: GRooT contains 114,222 trait records on 38 continuous root traits. Spatial location and grain: Global coverage with data from arid, continental, polar, temperate and tropical biomes. Data on root traits were derived from experimental studies and field studies. Time period and grain: Data were recorded between 1911 and 2019. Major taxa and level of measurement: GRooT includes root trait data for which taxonomic information is available. Trait records vary in their taxonomic resolution, with subspecies or varieties being the highest and genera the lowest taxonomic resolution available. It contains information for 184 subspecies or varieties, 6,214 species, 1,967 genera and 254 families. Owing to variation in data sources, trait records in the database include both individual observations and mean values. Software format: GRooT includes two csv files. A GitHub repository contains the csv files and a script in R to query the database.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-37
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 9 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This initiative was possible owing to the support of the Synthesis Centre (sDiv) of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig (DFG FZT 118) in the framework of the sRoot working group. We are grateful to all data contributors and to numerous assistants, technicians and students, who made it possible to have these hard-earned, valuable data in the first place. We thank Owen Atkin, F. Stuart Chapin?III, Brian Enquist, Thomas Hickler, Belinda Medlyn, Quentin Read, Michael White and Christian Wirth for contributing data, Jitka Klimesov? for contributing data and providing comments on an earlier version of the manuscript, and A. Shafer Powell for assistance with FRED user guidance and data. We acknowledge the ECOCRAFT data contributors: Ana Rey, Craig Barton, Gail Jackson, Bernard Saugier, Franz Badeck, Eric Dufr?ne, Rodolphe Liozon, Dieter Overdieck, Manfred Forstreuter, Joern Strassemeyer, Andrew Friend, Maureen Murray, Giuseppe Scarascia-Mugnozza, Giorgio Matteuci, Paolo de Angelis, Mark Broadmeadow, Tim Randle, Eric Laitat, Bruno Portier, Bruno Chermanne, Reinhart Ceulemans, David de Pury, Ewa Jach, Ivan Janssens, Sune Linder, Johan Bergh, Sabine Philippot, Peter Roberntz, Jan Stockfors, Seppo Kellomaki, Kaisa Laitinen, Kaiyun Wang, Michal Marek and Breta Regner. Colleen M. Iversen and the Fine-Root Ecology Database (FRED) are supported by the Biological and Environmental Research program in the Department of Energy?s Office of Science, and Joana Bergmann was supported by DFG grants RU-1815/20-1 and RI 1815/22-1. Nathaly R. Guerrero-Ram?rez thanks the Dorothea Schl?zer Postdoctoral Programme of the Georg-August-Universit?t Goettingen for their support; Nadejda A. Soudzilovskaia thanks vidi grant 016.161.318 issued by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research; and Vladimir G. Onipchenko thanks RSF for financial support (#16-14-10208). The study has been supported by the TRY initiative on plant traits ( The TRY initiative and database are hosted, developed and maintained at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany. TRY is currently supported by DIVERSITAS/Future Earth and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig. Open access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. Global Ecology and Biogeography published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • Belowground ecology
  • functional biogeography
  • macroecological studies
  • plant form and function
  • publicly-available database
  • root traits


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