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AusTraits is an open-source, harmonized database of Australian plant trait data. It synthesises data on nearly 500 traits across more than 30,000 taxa from field campaigns, published literature, taxonomic monographs, and individual taxon descriptions. Begun in 2016 as an initiative between three lab groups, it has grown to be the largest collation of plant trait data for Australian plants.

AusTraits integrates plant trait data collected by researchers from diverse disciplines, including functional plant biology, plant physiology, plant taxonomy, and conservation biology. By harmonizing and error checking values, linking all AusTraits data entries to detailed metadata, and documenting trait and trait values definitions, AusTraits is a resource researchers can trust and use for their research agendas with minimal additional filtering or manipulations.

An AusTraits data paper was published in Scientific Data in 2021 and is available at: 10.1038/s41597-021-01006-6.

Accessing and Using AusTraits

Access and use

A compiled version of AusTraits is available for download on Zenodo. As detailed on Zenodo, AusTraits has been released under an open source licence (CC-BY 4.0), enabling re-use by the community.

An R package, austraits, allows the seamless download of AusTraits and includes a selection of functions that facilitate the exploration and use of AusTraits. Visit AusTraits R Package to access and learn more about this resource.

Learn more

AusTraits is a relational database, with 11 elements, jointly storing the trait data, study metadata, and information about the AusTraits structure and build. Visualisations of these elements and the linkages between them are here to orient AusTraits users. Further information on AusTraits is available on the project’s GitHub repository, including vignettes on trait definitions and AusTraits structure.

Enhancing and Expanding AusTraits

Growing AusTraits into a national data asset

From 2021-2023 we are funded by a Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) grant through their Australian Data Partnerships program. The ARDC investment, together with co-investment from our 19 partner institutions, will expand AusTraits' data coverage and enhance data quality, allowing AusTraits to emerge as a national data asset. The AusTraits core team and broader team of ARDC partners are jointly working on a collection of work packages to achieve this goal.

Contributing new data to AusTraits

To contribute trait data to AusTraits, please contact us. Briefly, we require your data contribution as a spreadsheet in conjunction with accompanying metadata.

A vignette offers a detailed glance at the data entry process, with introductory sections on ideal submission formats near the top of the article.

We also accept any legacy datasets, either from your archives or transcribed from published data sources.

Formalising vocabulary

The AusTraits team has been holding a series of workshops over the past year to review and more fully document trait definitions and allowable trait values (terms for categorical variables and ranges for continuous variables) used to build AusTraits. Our first two workshops have, respectively, reviewed 30 trait definitions associated with seeds and germination and 50 trait definitions associated with plant growth form and leaf morphology. Upcoming workshops will focus on traits related to plant fire response and physiological function.

Establishing the Australian Plant Traits dictionary, APT

The trait definitions used to map data within AusTraits are being developed into a stand-alone trait dictionary. The AusTraits workflow requires each trait to have defined units (for numeric traits) and either explicitly allowed (and defined) values (for categorical traits) or an allowed range (for numeric traits). APT will also include references for traits, links to other trait databases and thesaurus providing data or definitions for the same trait concept, keywords, and hierarchical categories for easy data searching.

Transforming taxonomic descriptions into trait data tables

Taxonomic descriptions for most of Australia’s 30,000+ plant species are available in online floras maintained by state and national herbaria. One of our initiatives has been to use algorithms to extract key trait data from these paragraphs of information, providing an easy-to-search, tabular formulation of the taxonomic descriptions.

Enhanced access options

The AusTraits team has developed a project API along the distribution of AusTraits data to other biodiversity platforms, including the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), EcoCommons, and the Flora of Australia. The first links between these platforms and AusTraits should be completed by the end of 2022.

Converting the AusTraits workflow into a standalone R package,

Prompted by interest from other research groups to use the AusTraits pipeline to aggregate databases for other taxonomic groups or different clusters of traits, the R code underlying AusTraits is being developed into a standalone R package, The necessary changes have forced us to look hard at aspects of the database tables and more carefully align our database structure with established ontologies including the Extensible Observation Ontology (OBOE), the Ecological Trait-data Standard (ETS), and Darwin Core

Core Team

Our core AusTraits team is supported in maintaining, expanding, and enhancing AusTraits by a team of ARDC project grant partners. The creation of the AusTraits database was only possible because of the researchers who contributed data to this endeavor.


Assoc. Prof. Daniel Falster

Joint project lead


Dr Hervé Sauquet

Joint project lead


Dr Elizabeth Wenk

Project manager


Sophie Yang

Project officer


David Coleman

Project officer


Lily Dun

Research assistant



ARDC Funding 2019 - Initial funding

ARDC Funding 2021-2023 - More information can be found here including co-investment partners

Recent Publications

Below are some recent publications using AusTraits. You can access a full list of publications via AusTraits on Google Scholar.

  • Falster DS, Gallagher RV, et al. (2021) AusTraits, a curated plant trait database for the Australian flora. Scientific Data 8, 254. doi: 10.1038/s41597-021-01006-6
  • Andrew SC et al. (2021) Functional diversity of the Australian flora: Strong links to species richness and climate. Journal of Vegetation Science 32. doi: 10.1111/jvs.13018
  • Gallagher RV et al. (2021) High fire frequency and the impact of the 2019–2020 megafires on Australian plant diversity. Diversity and Distributions 27: 1166–1179. doi: 10.1111/ddi.13265