Browsing by Subject "key species"

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  • Gammal, Johanna; Hewitt, Judi; Norkko, Joanna; Norkko, Alf; Thrush, Simon (2020)
    The biodiversity crisis has increased interest in understanding the role of biodiversity for ecosystem functioning. Functional traits are often used to infer ecosystem functions to increase our understanding of these relationships over larger spatial scales. The links between specific traits and ecosystem functioning are, however, not always well established. We investigated how the choice of analyzing either individual species, selected modalities, or trait combinations affected the spatial patterns observed on a sandflat and how this was related to the natural variability in ecosystem functioning. A large dataset of 400 benthic macrofauna samples was used to explore distribution patterns. We hypothesized that (1) if multiple species (redundancy) represent a trait combination or a modality their spatial patterns would be smoothed out, and (2) the lost spatial variability within a trait combination or modality, due to the smoothing effect, would potentially affect their utility for predicting ecosystem functioning (tested on a dataset of 24 samples). We predicted that species would show heterogeneous small spatial patterns, while modalities and trait combinations would show larger and more homogeneous patterns because they would represent a collection of many distributions. If modalities and trait combinations are better predictors of ecosystem functioning than species, then the smoother spatial patterns of modalities and trait combinations would result in a more homogeneous landscape of ecosystem function and the number of species exhibiting specific traits would provide functional redundancy. Our results showed some smoothing of spatial patterns progressing from species through modalities to trait combinations, but generally spatial patterns reflected a few dominant key species. Moreover, some individual modalities and species explained more or equal proportions of the variance in the ecosystem functioning than the combined traits. The findings thus suggest that only some spatial variability is lost when species are combined into modalities and trait combinations and that a homogeneous landscape of ecosystem function is not likely.