Problem: Data from over 100 permanent sample plots which have been studied for 10–20 years need a suitable system for storage which allows simple data manipulation and retrieval for analysis.
Methods: A relational database linking tree records, taxonomic nomenclature and corresponding environmental data has been built in MS Access as part of the RAINFOR project.
Conclusion: The database allows flexible and long-term use of a large amount of data: more than 100 tree plots across Amazonia, incorporating over 80 000 records of individual trees and over 300 000 total records of tree diameter measurements from successive censuses. The database is designed to enable linkages to existing soil, floristic or plant-trait databases. This database will be a useful tool for exploring the impact of environmental factors on forest structure and dynamics at local to continental scales, and long term changes in forest ecology. As an early example of its potential, we explore the impact of different methodological assumptions on estimates of tropical forest biomass and carbon storage.