Centre for the synthesis
and analysis of biodiversity

A centre created and developed by the FRB


Data delivered through CESAB

  • BETSI (Biology and functional traits of soil invertebrates)
  • RAINBIO (Dynamics of tropical African rainforest)
  • IRBAS (Analysis and synthesis of intermittent rivers)
  • Discoweeds (Effect of disturbances on weed community assembly)
  • FunctionalWebs (The functional diversity of food webs)



The re-use of existing data is pivotal to the work of CESAB. To achieve this, data need to be assembled, organised, labelled, synthesised and analysed. This enables teams of scientists to achieve new insights from data that have often been under-utilised and un-correlated across disciplinary, geographical and organisational boundaries.  

To do this, groups need to construct organised databases of the characteristically heterogeneous data they gather, and systematically record the sources of their data, document terms used, and the management and handling of the data in their care. To assist groups in this we ask that they complete a ‘live’ data management plan so not only their plans but their practice are recorded. After their analyses are complete, we ask that their data are deposited for re-use by others: at present (2016) the threshold for this is the metadata of their compiled datasets, but increasingly it will be the data itself (with the essential metadata). These are long-term goals, but are consistent with practice around the world.les données de CESAB

In this world of open data, disciplinary experts are increasingly expected to publish their data. This requires learning new skills in data management and organisation about which programmers and ecologists rarely communicate, a major stumbling block in the world of digital data.
This is where the synthesis centre steps in: providing the needed informatics expertise in a responsive manner to the varied requirements and sophistication of the groups. The substantial contribution of synthesis centre staff around the world to thinking about and developing various aspects of data management is illustration of this commitment (e.g. Jones et al. 2006, Bowers et al. 2010, Vision and Cranston 2014, Specht et al. 2015).
A uniform, controlled vocabulary is required to allow web publication and automated discovery. This has led to support for the development of the CESAB Thesauform to facilitate capture of terminology and definitions used by ecologists in the description of their ecological observations.

Data delivered through CESAB

BETSI (Biological and ecological functional traits of soil invertebrates to link species assemblages to environmental factors) whose database can be viewed here.

Their main objectives were to:

• promote the use of trait-based approaches in soil invertebrate ecology, and
• give a reference structure to archive soil invertebrate trait data .

This is shown spatially, inter alia, by species occurrence.

Pey B., Laporte M.-A., Nahmani J., Auclerc A., Capowiez Y., Caro G., Cluzeau D., Cortet J., Decaëns T., Dubs F., Joimel S., Guernion M., Grumiaux F., Laporte B., Pasquet A., Pelosi C., Pernin C., Ponge J.-F., Salmon S., Santorufo L., Hedde M. (2014) A thesaurus for soil invertebrate trait-based approaches. PLoS One 9(10): e108985 <doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0108985>

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  (African biodiversity dynamics: interactions between ecological processes and conservation actions), whose database can be viewed here.


The RAINBIO mega database contains high quality georeferenced occurrences of vascular plants from sub-Saharan tropical Africa. It is a compilation of thirteen public and non-public databases made available under the RAINBIO project funded by CESAB.

It contains 610 117 georeferenced occurrences for 25 356 species of vascular plants and 29 659 taxa (comprising subpecies and varieties), 3 158 genera and 273 families.

Dauby G., Zaiss R., Blach-Overgaard A., Catarino L., Damen T., Deblauwe V., Dessein S., Dransfield J., Droissart V.,Duarte M.C., Engledow H., Fadeur G., Figueira, Gereau R.E., Hardy O.J., Harris D.J., de Heij J., Janssens S., Klomberg Y., Ley A.C., Makinder B.A., Meerts P., van de Poel J.L., Sonké B., Sosef M.S.M., Stévart T., Stoffelen P., Svenning J.-C.,  Sepulchre P., van der Burgt, Wieringa J.J., Couvreur T.L.P. (2016) RAINBIO: a mega-database of tropical African vascular plants distributions. PhytoKeys 74: 1-18 <doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.@.9723>

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(Analysis and synthesis of intermittent rivers), whose data base can be found at this address : http://irbas.cesab.org/irbas

Using a team of international, competent and productive scientists, the IRBAS project has:

• compiled, synthesised and analysed data on the biodiversity and habitat of intermittent rivers, and

• provided and managed an open database on the biodiversity of intermittent rivers.

The IRBAS database integrates and provides free access to the collected (and submitted) data, contributing to the growing global knowledge base on these ubiquitous and important river systems. The web interface of the IRBAS database serves as a data portal and data discovery tool, facilitating the synthesis and analysis of data to elucidate models of intermittent river biodiversity.

Leigh C., Laporte B., Bonada N., Fritz K., Pella H., Sauquet E., Tockner K., Datry T. (2016) IRBAS: an online database to collate, analyze, and synthesize data on the biodiversity and ecology of intermittent rivers worldwide.  Ecology and Evolution 7: 815-823 <doi:10.1002/ece3.2679.>

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Discoweeds (Disentangling the role of anthropic DISturbances and eCological processes on weed community assembly)

At the end of 2017 the group published a Database of weeds in cultivation fields of France and UK, with ecological and biogeographical information.

François Munoz, Guillaume Fried, Laura Armengot, Bérenger Bourgeois, Vincent Bretagnolle, Joël Chadoeuf, … Sabrina Gaba. (2017). Database of weeds in cultivation fields of France and UK, with ecological and biogeographical information (Version 1.0.0) [Data set]. Zenodo. http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1112342 

Link to the database HERE


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 FunctionalWebs (The functional diversity of food webs)

Régis Céréghino. 2018. Constraints on the functional trait space of aquatic invertebrates in bromeliads. Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity. doi:10.5063/F1VD6WMF.

Data on 12 functional traits of 852 taxa collected in tank bromeliads from Mexico to Argentina was used to examine the ecological strategies and constraints underlying the realized trait space of aquatic invertebrates. Using these data the major axes of trait variation were shown to represent life history strategies optimizing resource use and anti-predator adaptations. There was evidence for trophic, habitat, defense and life history niche axes. Bromeliad invertebrates only occupied 17-24% of the potential space within these dimensions, due to greater concentrations than predicted under uniform or normal distributions. Trait combinations aggregated taxa by family and then by order, suggesting that niche conservatism is a widespread mechanism in the diversification of ecological strategies.

The data and metadata can be found HERE

The R-Code to analyse the data is found HERE

Citation: Debastiani V., Céreghino R., Pillar V.D. (2018) Code and results for constraints on the functional trait space of aquatic invertebrates in bromeliads. (Version 1.0) Zenodo. Doi: 10.5281/zenodo.1200194

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Bowers S., Madin J.S., Schildhauer M.P. (2010) Owlifier: creating OWL-DL ontologies from simple spreadsheet-based knowledge. Ecological Informatics 5(1): 19-25.

Jones M.B., Schildauer M.P., Reichman O.J., Bowers, S. (2006) The new bioinformatics: integrating ecological data from the gene to the biosphere. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Sys. 37: 519-44.

Specht A., Guru S.M., Houghton L., Keniger L., Driver P., Ritchie E.G., Lai K., Treloar A. (2015) Data management challenges in analysis and synthesis in the ecosystem sciences. Science of the Total Environment 534:144-158.

Vision T.J., Cranston K. (2014) Open data for evolutionary synthesis: an introduction to the NESCENT collection. Scientific Data 1:140030.  


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