Project Overview


The FRED Initiative began as an international collaboration of root ecologists with an overarching goal of improving our understanding and model representation of fine-root traits and processes. To meet this goal, we looked to the long and rich history of observations of belowground plant traits, with a specific focus on fine roots, to serve as a solid foundation for our current understanding and as fuel for the next generation of measurements. The Fine-Root Ecology Database (FRED) was born (Iversen et al., 2017).


  • The first version of FRED (FRED 1.0) was released to the broader public in February 2017 (data citation: Iversen et al., 2016). FRED 1.0 housed more than 70,000 root trait observations from more than 800 data sources. It represented more than 300 root traits, along with associated ancillary data related to site, vegetation, edaphic, and climatic conditions from across the globe.

    FRED has been popular; over the course of 1 year, FRED 1.0 was downloaded more than 200 times to address a number of questions related to modeling, local site or species measurements, and broad trait relationships across species or sites. A pre-release of FRED (FRED 0.0) that was incorporated into the fourth version of the TRY database (TRY 4.0) has also been quite popular; the FRED-TRY synergy increases the representation of belowground plant traits in TRY and facilitates above- and belowground trait linkages. Over the time period from July 2017 to February 2018, observations from FRED 0.0 were requested from TRY 175 times; half of these queries were focused on root traits, while the rest were for ancillary data only.

    FRED 1.0 Downloads
    When users downloaded FRED 1.0, they were asked to select the primary data use they had planned for the database (a). Over a period of 1 year from its initial release in February 2017, FRED 1.0 was downloaded 208 times for use in five main categories: Assess broad trait relationships across species or sites (38%); Identify trait observations to combine with local site or species measurements (31%); Modeling (15%); Educational (8%); and Other (landscape design, data exploration, etc.; 7%). (Downloads of FRED 0.0 from TRY are not shown here.) More detailed data use plans were also requested from each user to assess the utility of FRED for multiple different types of projects, and to help steer future data collation. The details of these plans are not made public, but we illustrate some of the most frequently-used words in a word cloud (b) (this cloud includes plans submitted both to FRED and to TRY).
  • Map of FRED 1.0 downloads

    Downloads of FRED 0.0 (filled white circles) and FRED 1.0 (filled red circles) span the world, including 42 countries across six continents, but were mainly focused in the United States, Europe, and China.

  • A new version of FRED is now available. FRED 2.0 is an improved version of his older brother (data citation: Iversen et al., 2018), with 50% more root trait observations, particularly in the categories of root anatomy, architecture, chemistry, and morphology. FRED 2.0 has more than 105,000 observations of more than 300 root traits, with data collected from more than 1200 data sources. The ancillary data available have increased concurrently with increased root trait observations. FRED 2.0 is now freely available to the broader community of root and rhizosphere ecologists. FRED 2.0 will also be submitted to the next version of TRY upon its release. The observation numbers associated with individual root traits and ancillary data can be found here and here. Changes made to the database between FRED 1.0 and FRED 2.0 can be found here.

  • Map of locations of root observations in FRED.
    Map of the locations of root trait observations included in FRED 2.0. Only ~61% of the observations in FRED 2.0 were reported with geo-referenced locations. To facilitate spatial analyses and visualization, we include two additional variables in the FRED 2.0 database (‘Latitude_main’ and ‘Longitude_main’). FRED 2.0 houses data from 2285 distinct locations, more than double that of FRED 1.0.
  • We thank Chris DeRolph for his assistance with GIS mapping, Les Hook for his assistance with best data management practices, and Derek Brownlee for his assistance with this website.

  • This work is supported by the Department of Energy's Office of Science, under the Biological and Environmental Research program.