CS35 Trophic Dynamics
Date: Friday, June 14, 2002
Time: 10:15:00 AM
Location: Carson A
 
RosenfeldJS, Fisheries Research, Province of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, jordan.rosenfeld@gems4.gov.bc.ca
 
THE FUNCTIONAL NICHE AS A CONCEPTUAL TOOL FOR INTERPRETING REDUNDANCY
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Multiple studies have shown that biodiversity loss can impair ecosystem processes. However, mechanistic details of species loss effects and the generality of impacts across ecosystem types are poorly understood. The functional niche is a useful conceptual tool for understanding redundancy, where the functional niche is defined as the area occupied by a species in an n-dimensional functional space. Experiments to assess redundancy based on a single functional attribute are biased towards finding redundancy, because species are more likely to have non-overlapping functional niches in a multi-dimensional functional space. The effect of species loss in any particular ecosystem will depend on i) the range of function and diversity of species within a functional group ii) the relative partitioning of variance in functional space between and within functional groups, and iii) the potential for functional compensation (degree of functional niche overlap) of the species within a functional group. Identifying those functional groups and ecosystems most vulnerable to functional impairment from species loss is the first step in prioritizing species protection to maintain ecosystem function, and requires a clearer understanding of how the organization of diversity into discrete functional groups varies across communities and ecosystems.