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National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Project Description

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.

Working Group Participants

Principal Investigator(s)

Brian J. Enquist, Brad Boyle, Richard Condit, Steven Dolins, Robert K. Peet

Project Dates

Start: August 1, 2008

End: May 1, 2010



Jorge Ahumada
University of Hawaii
Sandy J. Andelman
Conservation International
Benjamin Blonder
University of Copenhagen
Brad Boyle
University of Arizona
Jeannine M. Cavender-Bares
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Richard Condit
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Doug Daly
New York Botanical Garden
Barbara H. Dobrin
University of Arizona
Steven Dolins
Bradley University
John C. Donoghue
University of Arizona
Kristine Engemann Jensen
Aarhus University
Brian J. Enquist
University of Arizona
Eric H. Fegraus
Conservation International
Karla Gendler
University of Arizona
Steve Goff
University of Arizona
Peter Jørgensen
Missouri Botanical Garden
Nathan J.B. Kraft
University of British Columbia
Gabriela Lopez-Gonzalez
University of Leeds
Zhenyuan Lu
USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
Yadvinder Malhi
University of Oxford
Aaron Marcuse-Kubitza
University of California, Santa Barbara
Naim Matasci
iPlant Collaborative
Brian J. McGill
University of Arizona
Sheldon McKay
University of Arizona
Naia Morueta-Holme
Aarhus University
Martha Narro
University of Arizona
Jeffrey E. Ott
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Robert K. Peet
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Oliver Phillips
University of Leeds
William Piel
Yale University
Shashwati Ramteke
Bradley University
James Regetz
University of California, Santa Barbara
Brody Sandel
Aarhus University
Mark P. Schildhauer
University of California, Santa Barbara
Irena Simova
Charles University
Lindsey L. Sloat
University of Arizona
Nick Spencer
Landcare Research
Jens-Christian Svenning
Aarhus University
Nathan G. Swenson
Michigan State University Museum
Hans ter Steege
Universiteit Utrecht
Barbara Thiers
New York Botanical Garden
Cyrille Violle
University of Arizona
Corine Vriesendorp
Field Museum
Susan K. Wiser
Landcare Research


  1. Presentations / 2013

    Assembly of plant communities in climate space

  2. Journal Article / 2014

    Separating macroecological pattern and process: Comparing ecological, economic, and geological Systems

  3. Journal Article / 2015

    Linking environmental filtering and disequilibrium to biogeography with a community climate framework

  4. Journal Article / 2013

    The taxonomic name resolution service: An online tool for automated standardization of plant names

  5. Journal Article / 2015

    A comparative framework for broad-scale plot-based vegetation classification

  6. Journal Article / 2016

    Megafauna extinction, tree species range reduction, and carbon storage in Amazonian forests

  7. Journal Article / 2015

    Limited sampling hampers "big data" estimation of species richness in a tropical biodiversity hotspot

  8. Journal Article / 2016

    Patterns and drivers of plant functional group dominance across the Western Hemisphere: A macroecological re-assessment based on a massive botanical dataset

  9. Report or White Paper / 2016

    Cyberinfrastructure for an integrated botanical information network to investigate the ecological impacts of global climate change on plant biodiversity

  10. Journal Article / 2021

    How deregulation, drought and increasing fire impact Amazonian biodiversity

  11. Journal Article / 2015

    How a national vegetation classification can help ecological research and management

  12. Journal Article / 2016

    Plant-O-Matic: A dynamic and mobile guide to all plants of the Americas

  13. Journal Article / 2015

    Intercontinental comparisons of habitat levels of invasion between temperate North America and Europe

  14. Journal Article / 2014

    Functional trait space and the latitudinal diversity gradient

  15. Journal Article / 2017

    The bien r package: A tool to access the Botanical Information and Ecology Network (BIEN) database

  16. Journal Article / 2019

    Temperature shapes opposing latitudinal gradients of plant taxonomic and phylogenetic B diversity

  17. Journal Article / 2019

    Temperature shapes opposing latitudinal gradients of plant taxonomic and phylogenetic β diversity

  18. Journal Article / 2013

    Habitat area and climate stability determine geographical variation in plant species range sizes

  19. Journal Article / 2016

    A network approach for inferring species associations from co-occurrence data

  20. Journal Article / 2021

    The adaptive challenge of extreme conditions shapes evolutionary diversity of plant assemblages at continental scales

  21. Journal Article / 2015

    Scale-dependent responses of longleaf pine vegetation to fire frequency and environmental context across two decades

  22. Journal Article / 2012

    VegBank - a permanent, open-access archive for vegetation-plot data

  23. Journal Article / 2015

    Shifts in trait means and variances in North American tree assemblages: Species richness patterns are loosely related to the functional space

  24. Journal Article / 2018

    Spatial patterns and climate relationships of major plant traits in the New World differ between woody and herbaceous species

  25. Journal Article / 2019

    The relationship of woody plant size and leaf nutrient content to large-scale productivity for forests across the Americas

  26. Journal Article / 2014

    The emergence and promise of functional biogeography

  27. Journal Article / 2011

    Veg-X - An exchange standard for plot-based vegetation data

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