This package assists in handling functional trait data and transferring them into the Trait Data Standard (Schneider et al. in preparation).

There are two major use cases for the package:

  • preparation of own trait datasets for upload into public data bases, and
  • harmonizing trait datasets from different sources by moulding them into a unified format.

The toolset of the package includes

  • transforming species-trait-matrix or occurence table data into a unified long-table format
  • mapping column names into terms provided in the trait data standard (Schneider et al. 2017)
  • matching of species names into GBIF Backbone Taxonomy (taxonomic ontology server)
  • matching of trait names into a user-provided traitlist, i.e. a thesaurus of traits
  • unifying trait values into target unit format and legit factor levels
  • saving trait dataset into a desired format using templates (e.g. for BExIS)


The package can be installed from Github via the ‘devtools’ package




thesaurus <- as.thesaurus(
       body_length = as.trait("body_length", 
         expectedUnit = "mm", 
         identifier = "length"
       antenna_length = as.trait("antenna_length", 
         expectedUnit = "mm", 
         identifier = "antenna"
       metafemur_length = as.trait("metafemur_length", 
         expectedUnit = "mm", 
         identifier = "metafemur"
       eyewidth = as.trait("eyewidth_corr", 
         expectedUnit = "mm", 
         identifier = "eyewidth"
traitdataset1 <- standardize(carabids,
            thesaurus = thesaurus,
            taxa = "name_correct",
            units = "mm"


A documentation is available online at or offline in the package vignette ‘traitdataform’.


The traitdataform package links to a couple of datasets, which are used for demo purposes in the vignette and documentation, but can be used for research and production use.

The datasets have been published by their authors under Creative Commons 0 or Creative Commons Attribution license, which means they can be copied, modified, distributed without asking permission. Attribution must be given according to the dataset license.

For additional information and interpretation of the data please refer to the help pages of the data objects (e.g. calling ?carabids in R) and the original data sources given therein.

If you want further datasources published under Creative Commons Licenses or in the public domain being added to this package, feel free to file a pull-request with a script for download and harmonization in the data/ directory and a documentation appended to R/data.R!

Future features

The package is under open source development. You are invited to submit pull-requests with your improvements.

We are aiming to provide the following features in future iterations of the package:

  • extracting trait definitions and hierarchies from semantic ontologies (e.g. from the OWL files or via APIs), to facilitate analysis of comparable traits across taxa.
  • automated matching of user-provided trait names against trait definitions in online resources, by looking up traits from published ontologies.
  • harmonization of levels of factorial traits via fuzzy matching (requires lookup tables and ontologies providing legit factor levels).
  • managing trait databases locally in R by turning the traitdataset objects into lists containing additional linked data (e.g. on occurence level or measurement level, sampling event, taxon etc.).
  • saving trait datasets as Darwin Core Archives.

Cite as

Schneider, F.D. (2017) traitdataform - harmonizing ecological trait data in R, v0.2, doi:,


Copyright (c) 2017 F.D. Schneider,

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