Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 38, Issue 6, pp 2323–2336 | Cite as

Patterns in Taxonomic and Functional Diversity of Macrobenthic Invertebrates Across Seagrass Habitats: a Case Study in Atlantic Canada

  • Melisa C. Wong
  • Michael Dowd


Functional diversity (FD) characterizes the role of species within communities based on their morphological, behavioural and life history traits. Taxonomic diversity is not always a surrogate for FD, and ecosystem functioning is more dependent on functional traits rather than species richness. Despite this, most diversity studies in seagrass ecosystems do not consider the functional trait landscape. Here, we compare and contrast the taxonomic and functional diversity and composition of macrobenthic invertebrates (infauna and small epifauna) across a gradient of seagrass habitats (bare sediment, bed edge and bed interior) at three sites in Nova Scotia, Canada. We also determine the relationship between taxonomic diversity and FD to gain insight into the consequences of species loss. At two sites, we found that taxonomic diversity (species number and Margalef and Simpson’s indices) increased from bare sediments to the bed interior, while FD (Rao index) did not or else showed a weaker pattern. At a third site, both taxonomic and functional diversity tended to increase across the seagrass gradient. Despite the differences in relationships between taxonomic and functional diversity, functional trait composition tended to be distinct across seagrass habitats at all sites. Regressions showed that FD increased either hyperbolically or linearly with taxonomic diversity. Our study suggests that for seagrass ecosystems similar to the ones sampled, the implications of species loss for ecosystem functioning may not be easily predicted from data of taxonomic diversity alone. This study provides some of the first data of taxonomic and functional diversity in seagrass ecosystems, which can be used to inform conservation objectives and management practices.


Biological traits analysis Coastal marine ecosystems Ecosystem functioning Rao quadratic entropy index Zostera marina 



We thank M. Bravo and R. Tress for providing technical assistance in the field and laboratory. The manuscript was improved by comments from anonymous reviewers. Funding was provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (MW) and an NSERC Discovery Grant (MD).

Supplementary material

12237_2015_9967_MOESM1_ESM.doc (370 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 370 kb)


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Copyright information

© UK Crown: Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada as represented by Fisheries and Oceans 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bedford Institute of OceanographyFisheries and Oceans CanadaDartmouthCanada
  2. 2.Department of Mathematics and StatisticsDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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