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National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Principal Investigator(s): Brian J. Enquist, Richard Condit, Robert K. Peet, Brad Boyle and Steven Dolins

Ecosystems change naturally as well as due to human intervention. Species ranges expand and contract, and some species become extinct. Sometimes these changes fundamentally impact the diversity and function of local communities. Documenting large shifts in species' abundance and ranges requires data from entire biogeographic provinces. Most datasets; however, originate from individual researchers and cover local scales. These efforts represent only a small part of the full evidence which could be brought to bear upon any given research question. If we could combine the millions of vegetation plots, botanical inventories, and specimens collected since the birth of plant ecology in the late 1800s, we would have an enormous baseline database for addressing questions on plant diversity and distributions that have not been addressed before.

This Working Group brought together:

  1. Leading collectors and managers of botanical survey and inventory data
  2. Informaticians
  3. Ecologists doing synthetic research across scales

This Working Group integrated, for the first time, the most significant existing sets of vegetation data spanning North and South America. This effort incorporated database resources for plant plot information and taxonomies and will encompass several million records of species occurrences. The result will be the largest assembly of data on plant diversity and distribution for both tropical and temperate plant species yet created. This will address basic yet critical questions regarding how climate and climate change influence species range sizes, abundance, and extinction risk.

BIEN website and ongoing database development work

This work was supported by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a Center funded by NSF (Grant #EF-0553768), the University of California, Santa Barbara, the State of California and the iPlant Collaborative.

More information for Project Participants