Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


'Big data' takes root in the world of plant research


Botanists at Trinity College Dublin have launched a database with information that documents significant 'life events' for nearly 600 plant species across the globe.

They clubbed together with like-minded individuals working across five different continents to compile the huge database of plant life histories, for which data have been gathered over a near 50-year span.

Black pine (Pinus nigra), one of the species whose life history data is part of the database, is seen against a stunning backdrop of New Zealand.

Credit: Yvonne Buckley

Plantago lanceolata at Howth Head, Dublin, Ireland, ; this species is one of the near 600 for which researchers have gathered life history data.

Credit: Anna Csergo

At a time in which climate change and increasing human populations are rapidly re-shaping plant distributions, the researchers hope their COMPADRE Plant Matrix database will foster collaborations between scientists and allow them to better answer questions such as how we can conserve the species that are critical for ecosystem services, and which may provide food for billions.

The researchers have just published an article in the prestigious international, peer-reviewed publication Journal of Ecology that describes the database. By making the precious data it contains free to download, they hope to inspire and accelerate important global research on plant biology.

"We hope that other scientists will use these data to answer questions such as why, unlike humans, some plants don't deteriorate as they age, why some environments are better for agriculture than others, and how fast plant populations will move in response to climate change," said Professor of Zoology in Trinity's School of Natural Sciences, Yvonne Buckley.

She added: "Making the database freely available is our 21st Century revamp of the similarly inspired investments in living plant collections that were made to botanic gardens through the centuries; these were also set up to bring economic, medicinal and agricultural advantages of plants to people all over the world. Our database is moving this gift into the digital age of 'Big Data'."

We are used to shops, websites and companies keeping track of our purchases, what we eat, who we date, and even when and how we exercise. Keeping track of the most intimate details of life, death and reproduction should not be unique to human populations, though.

We rely on plants for some of our most basic needs like food, shelter and clothing. It is therefore vital that we know the 'hows', 'whys' and 'wherefores' governing the success of a diverse range of plant species so that we can protect them and put them to use for the good of the world.

The COMPADRE database contains far more information than one person could ever hope to pull together over a lifetime. The data have been collected over the past 48 years by many scientists on five continents, with sites ranging from the searing heat of deserts to the freezing cold of arctic and alpine plant communities. As a result, there are almost infinite questions for researchers to explore.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) funded a lot of the data collection. The MPIDR is world renowned for its work on human population change, ageing and fertility, as well as the demography of animals and plants.

The journal article will be freely available ( after the embargo has lifted, and the COMPADRE Plant Matrix database will be freely available to download (

Media Contact:

Thomas Deane, Press Officer for the Faculty of Engineering, Mathematics, and Science, Trinity College Dublin, at or Tel: +353-1-896-4685

Yvonne Buckley, Professor of Zoology, Trinity College Dublin, at or Tel: +353-87-931-7638

** Professor Buckley is available for interview **

** Journal Article DOI = 10.1111/1365-2745.12334 **

About Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College Dublin, founded in 1592 is Ireland's oldest university and today has a vibrant community of 17,000 students. It is recognised internationally as Ireland's premier university. Cutting edge research, technology and innovation places the university at the forefront of higher education in Ireland and globally. It encompasses all major academic disciplines, and is committed to world-class teaching and research across the range of disciplines in the arts, humanities, engineering, science, social and health sciences.

Trinity is Ireland's leading university across all international rankings, and was ranked 61st globally in 2013 QS World University Ranking 

Thomas Deane | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Strong, steady forces at work during cell division
20.10.2016 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

nachricht Disturbance wanted
20.10.2016 | Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's MAVEN mission observes ups and downs of water escape from Mars

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>