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Response and effect plants functional traits

Among plant functional traits it is now widely accepted to distinguish response and effect traits.

Response traits are those associated to plant response to environmental factors.

Effect traits are those related to the plant effects on ecosystem functioning.

The first group of traits affect the resilience of an ecosystem; the second determine the effects of plants on ecosystem functions such as biogeochemical processes, CO2 fixation, productivity, etc.

In fact, it was postulated that functional effect groups (species with a similar effect on one or several ecosystem functions; e.g., primary productivity, nutrient cycling) and functional response groups (groups of species with a similar response to a particular environmental factor; e.g., resource availability, disturbance or CO2) do not necessarily coincide (chapter 13 in Canadell et al. 2007).

The separation among response and effect traits used in a recent paper on this topic (see Laliberté et al., 2010 on Ecology Letters). In it the functional redundancy of each effect group per each stand is calculated as the richness of functionally similar species in each effect group. For each functional effect group, we the response diversity is then calculated by means of the functional dispersion index described by Laliberte & Legendre (2010 in Ecology).

Functional response diversity ensures that an ecosystem is able to respond to disturbance events in different ways, therefore that its resilience is high. Effect redundancy on the other hand ensures that although the extinction of one species other species will be able to “keep the ecosystem functioning”.

Therefore this method allows to evaluate the ecosystem resilience diversity for each group of species providing a similar “service”.

I think this approach should be applied estensively as it seems able to relate biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in a great way, giving an answer to a topical issue.

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