Functional traits as indicators of biodiversity response to land use changes across ecosystems and organisms

Abstract

Rigorous and widely applicable indicators of biodiversity are needed to monitor the responses of ecosystems to global change and design effective conservation schemes. Among the potential indicators of biodiversity, those based on the functional traits of species and communities are interesting because they can be generalized to similar habitats and can be assessed by relatively rapid field assessment across eco-regions. Functional traits, however, have as yet been rarely considered in current common monitoring schemes. Moreover, standardized procedures of trait measurement and analyses have almost exclusively been developed for plants but different approaches have been used for different groups of organisms. Here we review approaches using functional traits as biodiversity indicators focussing not on plants as usual but particularly on animal groups that are commonly considered in different biodiversity monitoring schemes (benthic invertebrates, collembolans, above ground insects and birds). Further, we introduce a new framework based on functional traits indices and illustrate it using case studies where the traits of these organisms can help monitoring the response of biodiversity to different land use change drivers. We propose and test standard procedures to integrate different components of functional traits into biodiversity monitoring schemes across trophic levels and disciplines. We suggest that the development of indicators using functional traits could complement, rather than replace, the existent biodiversity monitoring. In this way, the comparison of the effect of land use changes on biodiversity is facilitated and is expected to positively influence conservation management practices.

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Fig. 1

Abbreviations

mT:

Mean trait per community

FD:

Functional diversity

LU:

Landscape unit

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the RUBICODE Coordination Action Project (Rationalizing Biodiversity Conservation in Dynamic Ecosystems) funded under the Sixth Framework Programme of the European Commission (Contract No. 036890). The study on urban birds was part of the interdisciplinary project ‘BiodiverCity’ (www.biodivercity.ch) funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation as a project of the NRP54 ‘Sustainable development of the built environment’.

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Correspondence to Marie Vandewalle.

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Marie Vandewalle and Francesco de Bello contributed equally to this work.

Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 7, 8, 9, 10.

Table 7 Benthic macroinvertebrate traits and trait modalities
Table 8 Collembolan species traits and trait modalities
Table 9 Traits of carabids (117 species collected from 24 landscapes in four European countries) used in the calculation of FD and mT
Table 10 Description of the bird nesting and feeding traits and categories

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Vandewalle, M., de Bello, F., Berg, M.P. et al. Functional traits as indicators of biodiversity response to land use changes across ecosystems and organisms. Biodivers Conserv 19, 2921–2947 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-010-9798-9

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Keywords

  • Bioindicators
  • Birds
  • Carabids
  • Collembola
  • Functional diversity
  • Macroinvertebrates
  • Community weighted mean trait
  • Standardized biodiversity monitoring