Publication Details

Category Text Publication
Reference Category Journals
DOI 10.1111/geb.13346
Licence creative commons licence
Title (Primary) sPlotOpen – An environmentally balanced, open-access, global dataset of vegetation plots
Author Sabatini, F.M.; Lenoir, J.; Hattab, T.; Arnst, E.A.; Chytrý, M.; Dengler, J.; De Ruffray, P.; Hennekens, S.M.; Jandt, U.; Jansen, F.; Jiménez-Alfaro, B.; Kattge, J.; Virtanen, R.; von Wehrden, H., et al.
Source Titel Global Ecology and Biogeography
Year 2021
Department iDiv; PHYDIV
Volume 30
Issue 9
Page From 1740
Page To 1764
Language englisch
Topic T5 Future Landscapes
Keywords big data, biodiversity, biogeography, database, functional traits, macroecology, vascular plants, vegetation plots


Assessing biodiversity status and trends in plant communities is critical for understanding, quantifying and predicting the effects of global change on ecosystems. Vegetation plots record the occurrence or abundance of all plant species co-occurring within delimited local areas. This allows species absences to be inferred, information seldom provided by existing global plant datasets. Although many vegetation plots have been recorded, most are not available to the global research community. A recent initiative, called ‘sPlot’, compiled the first global vegetation plot database, and continues to grow and curate it. The sPlot database, however, is extremely unbalanced spatially and environmentally, and is not open-access. Here, we address both these issues by (a) resampling the vegetation plots using several environmental variables as sampling strata and (b) securing permission from data holders of 105 local-to-regional datasets to openly release data. We thus present sPlotOpen, the largest open-access dataset of vegetation plots ever released. sPlotOpen can be used to explore global diversity at the plant community level, as ground truth data in remote sensing applications, or as a baseline for biodiversity monitoring.

Main types of variable contained

Vegetation plots (n = 95,104) recording cover or abundance of naturally co-occurring vascular plant species within delimited areas. sPlotOpen contains three partially overlapping resampled datasets (c. 50,000 plots each), to be used as replicates in global analyses. Besides geographical location, date, plot size, biome, elevation, slope, aspect, vegetation type, naturalness, coverage of various vegetation layers, and source dataset, plot-level data also include community-weighted means and variances of 18 plant functional traits from the TRY Plant Trait Database.

Spatial location and grain

Global, 0.01–40,000 m².

Time period and grain

1888–2015, recording dates.

Major taxa and level of measurement

42,677 vascular plant taxa, plot-level records.

Software format

Three main matrices (.csv), relationally linked.

Persistent UFZ Identifier
Sabatini, F.M., Lenoir, J., Hattab, T., Arnst, E.A., Chytrý, M., Dengler, J., De Ruffray, P., Hennekens, S.M., Jandt, U., Jansen, F., Jiménez-Alfaro, B., Kattge, J., Virtanen, R., von Wehrden, H., et al. (2021):
sPlotOpen – An environmentally balanced, open-access, global dataset of vegetation plots
Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 30 (9), 1740 - 1764 10.1111/geb.13346