The Global Index of Vegetation-Plot Databases (GIVD): a new resource for vegetation science


  • Co-ordinating Editor: Ingolf Kühn

  • Dengler, J. (corresponding author,; Oldeland, J. ( & Finckh, M. ( Biodiversity, Evolution and Ecology of Plants, Biocentre Klein Flottbek and Botanical Garden, University of Hamburg, Ohnhorststr. 18, 22609 Hamburg, Germany
    Jansen, F. ( & Glöckler, F. ( Landscape Ecology & Nature Conservation, Institute of Botany and Landscape Ecology, University of Greifswald, Grimmer Str. 88, 17487 Greifswald, Germany
    Peet, R.K. ( Department of Biology CB#3280, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3280, USA
    De Cáceres, M. ( Centre Tecnològic Forestal de Catalunya, Ctra. St. Llorenç de Morunys km 2, 25280 Solsona, Spain
    Chytrý, M. ( Department of Botany and Zoology, Masaryk University, Kotlářská 2, 611 37 Brno, Czech Republic
    Ewald, J. ( Botany & Vegetation Science, Faculty of Forestry, University of Applied Sciences Weihenstephan-Triesdorf, Hans-Carl-von-Carlowitz-Platz 3, 85354 Freising, Germany
    Lopez-Gonzalez, G. ( School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
    Mucina, L. ( Department of Environment & Agriculture, Curtin Institute for Biodiversity & Climate, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia
    Rodwell, J.S. ( Lincoln Institute, University of Manchester, Samuel Alexander Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK
    Schaminée, J.H.J. ( Radboud University Nijmegen and Wageningen UR, PO Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
    Spencer, N. ( Landcare Research New Zealand, PO Box 40, Lincoln 7460, New Zealand


Question: How many vegetation plot observations (relevés) are available in electronic databases, how are they geographically distributed, what are their properties and how might they be discovered and located for research and application?

Location: Global.

Methods: We compiled the Global Index of Vegetation-Plot Databases (GIVD;, an Internet resource aimed at registering metadata on existing vegetation databases. For inclusion, databases need to (i) contain temporally and spatially explicit species co-occurrence data and (ii) be accessible to the scientific public. This paper summarizes structure and data quality of databases registered in GIVD as of 30 December 2010.

Results: On the given date, 132 databases containing more than 2.4 million non-overlapping plots had been registered in GIVD. The majority of these data were in European databases (83 databases, 1.6 million plots), whereas other continents were represented by substantially less (North America 15, Asia 13, Africa nine, South America seven, Australasia two, multi-continental three). The oldest plot observation was 1864, but most plots were recorded after 1970. Most plots reported vegetation on areas of 1 to 1000 m2; some also stored time-series and nested-plot data. Apart from geographic reference (required for inclusion), most frequent information was on altitude (71%), slope aspect and inclination (58%) and land use (38%), but rarely soil properties (<7%).

Conclusions: The vegetation plot data in GIVD constitute a major resource for biodiversity research, both through the large number of species occurrence records and storage of species co-occurrence information at a small scale, combined with structural and plot-based environmental data. We identify shortcomings in available data that need to be addressed through sampling under-represented geographic regions, providing better incentives for data collection and sharing, developing user-friendly database exchange standards, as well as tools to analyse and remove confounding effects of sampling biases. The increased availability of data sets conferred by registration in GIVD offers significant opportunities for large-scale studies in community ecology, macroecology and global change research.