Synthesis Activities

We are experiencing a Belowground Data Revolution. Belowground trait initiatives spanning the world are mobilizing root trait data from understudied biomes from the tundra to the tropics, as well as data on root and microbial traits that span the root - rhizosphere continuum. Below we describe some of the initiatives that FRED collaborates on, but see Iversen and McCormack, 2021 for an image that describes the full shape of the Belowground Data Revolution. Join us!

  • co-PIs: Drs. Alex Weigelt and Liesje Mommer
    (alexandra.weigelt at; Liesje.Mommer at 

    Between 2018 and 2020, the sROOT working group (including root-lovers from around the world) gathered at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) in beautiful Leipzig, Germany to improve our understanding of belowground plant traits. 

    While FRED and TRY are the largest sources of root trait data from around the world, the many disparate traits and observations can be inaccessible and overwhelming to those without an expertise in belowground processes. 

    The sROOT working group leveraged these databases, along with new data, to create the Global Root Traits (GRooT) Database, with a goal of making species-specific, global root trait data 'Ready-to-Use'. See the story here.

    The development of a core set of curated and standardized root traits in GRooT allowed sROOT to explore belowground plant strategies across the global root economic space, with more global analyses underway. 

  • co-PIs: Drs. Rebecca Hewitt and Michelle Mack
    (rebecca.hewitt at; michelle.mack at

    Belowground ecosystem properties are poorly understood, but likely one of the most important drivers of Arctic ecosystem response to climate change. We propose to bring together an interdisciplinary team of biologists and ecologists to synthesize what is known about root traits and rhizosphere processes in cold ecosystems with soil profiles dominated by thick organic horizons - tundra, boreal forest, and peatlands. We have solicited the involvement of belowground ecologists spanning molecular biologists investigating rhizosphere processes, to plant ecologists and evolutionary biologists that use a trait framework to understand vegetation patterns and function, to ecosystem ecologists measuring the interplay between terrestrial ecosystem function and the climate system. We have found great interest by these scientists in an “Arctic Underground” network to produce synthesis products on belowground Arctic ecosystem processes. We have four general areas of interest that we would like to use as a starting point for the network:

    1) synthesizing the effects of soil warming experiments on root and rhizosphere processes;

    2) examining the links between leaf and root traits for extrapolation and scaling of ecological processes in Arctic and Boreal ecosystems;

    3) linking roots from cold soils to a “worldwide root economic spectrum”; and

    4) integrating traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of belowground properties into our understanding of Arctic ecosystem change.

  • PI: Dr. Daniela Cusack
    (Daniela.Cusack at 

    TropiRoots initiates a long-term collaboration among scientists interested in: (1) What is known about how root traits relate to ecosystem function in tropical forests? (2) How do emerging trends differ among tropical forest types and from temperate forests? (3) How should we prioritize root trait research going forward in a changing world? (4) What are emerging topics and methods in root traits research to focus on in the future?