The largest part of forest biomass consists of wood. A global estimate of carbon stored in lignified tissues rises up to 400 Pg. Given these quantities, there is a growing interest of implementing wood research in diagnoses and evaluations of the carrying capacity of the global ecosystem and its forests. The question arises how disciplines like wood anatomy could respond to the increasing demands of a trait-based ecology, understood as a paradigmatic shift in addressing global changes. Dendrochronology and ecological wood anatomy, traditionally operating within the paradigm of species-based ecology, developed robust methods to address ecological questions. However, sampling strategies and database design will likely be different when wood traits are to be used to study individual tree performance, including responses to stress.
Aiming at optimally involving wood research in trait-based ecology, some trait concepts are analysed. The value of the IAWA standard lists of wood anatomical features as starting points for trait databases is recognized. A summary of the functionality of wood is given to inform the trait-research community of basic aspects of tree performance. The time dimension is highlighted, as well as the foundations for understanding bio-hydraulics, bio-mechanics and metabolism of wood and relevant traits.
Guidelines are given for sampling strategies and database concepts. Prospects of time axis construction and system integration are discussed, as well as the importance of standardizing for size.