Does taxonomic homogenization imply functional homogenization in temperate forest herb layer communities?
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- Tobias, N. & Monika, W. Plant Ecol (2012) 213: 431. doi:10.1007/s11258-011-9990-3
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Biotic homogenization, the decrease in beta diversity among formerly distinct species assemblages, has been recognized as an important form of biotic impoverishment for more than a decade. Although researchers have stressed the importance of the functional dimension to understand its potential ecological consequences, biotic homogenization has mostly been studied at a taxonomic level. Here, we explore the relationship between taxonomic and functional homogenization using data on temperate forest herb layer communities in NW Germany, for which taxonomic homogenization has recently been demonstrated. We quantified beta diversity by partitioning Rao’s quadratic entropy. We found a general positive relationship between changes in taxonomic and functional beta diversity. This relationship was stronger if multiple functional traits were taken into account. Averaged across sites, however, taxonomic homogenization was not consistently accompanied by functional homogenization. Depending on the traits considered, taxonomic homogenization occurred also together with functional differentiation or no change in functional beta diversity. The species shifts responsible for changes in beta diversity differed substantially between taxonomic and functional beta diversity measures and also among functional beta diversity measures based on different traits. We discuss likely environmental drivers for species shifts. Our study demonstrates that functional homogenization must be explicitly studied as an independent phenomenon that cannot be inferred from taxonomic homogenization.