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Plant Functional DiversityOrganism traits, community structure, and ecosystem properties$
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Eric Garnier, Marie-Laure Navas, and Karl Grigulis

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198757368

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198757368.001.0001

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Trait-based ecology: definitions, methods, and a conceptual framework

Trait-based ecology: definitions, methods, and a conceptual framework

Chapter:
(p.9) Chapter 2 Trait-based ecology: definitions, methods, and a conceptual framework
Source:
Plant Functional Diversity
Author(s):

Eric Garnier

Marie-Laure Navas

Karl Grigulis

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198757368.003.0002

Functional diversity can be studied at different levels of organization of biological systems. Here the chapter considers the individual as a key level to understanding this functional diversity. Adaptation occurs at this level, and the functioning and responses of individuals determine those of populations, communities, and ecosystems. The ‘trait’ concept allows one to assess the different expressions of functions performed by organisms, and is extensively used in the various fields of study concerned with biological diversity. A trait is defined as ‘any morphological, physiological, or phenological heritable feature measurable at the level of the individual, from the cell to the whole organism, without reference to the environment or any other level of organization’. Trait-based ecology, the discipline at the core of this book, extensively uses the trait concept at different levels of organization. A conceptual ‘response and effect’ framework allows for the linkage of the response of plants to environmental factors with the potential effects of this on ecosystem properties and services. Environmental factors filter species as a function of their trait values (called ‘response traits’), resulting in a community functional structure defined on the basis of the distribution of trait values in this community. In turn, this functional structure has impacts on ecosystem properties and the services delivered by these to humans, through ‘effect traits’. The chapter argues that it is the components of the functional structure of communities which have impacts on ecosystem properties and services, and not the number of species present in these communities.

Keywords:   trait definition, trait-based ecology, response-effect framework, functional structure, organization level, community, ecosystem properties, response trait, effect trait

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