GIFT - A Global Inventory of Floras and Traits for macroecology and biogeography
Patrick Weigelt, Christian Koenig, Holger Kreft
To understand how traits and evolutionary history shape the geographic distribution of plant life on Earth, we need to integrate high-quality and global-scale distribution data with functional and phylogenetic information. Large-scale distribution data for plants are, however, often restricted to either certain taxonomic groups or geographic regions. For example, range maps only exist for a small subset of all plant species and digitally available point-occurrence information is strongly biased
... both geographically and taxonomically. An alternative, currently rarely used resource for macroecological and botanical research are regional Floras and checklists, which contain highly curated information about the species composition of a clearly defined area, and which together virtually cover the entire global land surface. Here we report on our recent efforts to mobilize this information for macroecological and biogeographical analyses in the GIFT database, the Global Inventory of Floras and Traits. GIFT integrates plant distributions, functional traits, phylogenetic information, and region-level geographic, environmental and socio-economic data. GIFT currently holds species lists for 2,893 regions across the whole globe including ~315,000 taxonomically standardized species names (i.e. c. 80% of all known land plant species) and ~3 million species-by-region occurrences. In addition, GIFT contains information about the floristic status (native, endemic, alien and naturalized) and takes advantage of the wealth of trait information in the regional Floras, complemented by data from global trait databases. Based on a hierarchical and taxonomical derivation scheme, GIFT holds information for 83 functional traits and more than 2.3 million trait-by-species combinations and achieves unprecedented coverage in categorical traits such as woodiness (~233,000 spp.) or growth form (~213,000 spp.). Here we present the structure, content and automated workflows of GIFT and a corresponding web-interface (http://gift.uni-goettingen.de) as proof of concept for the feasibility and potential of mobilizing aggregated biodiversity data for global macroecological and biogeographical research.