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Extinction and the loss of functional diversity

Petchey, O.L. and Gaston, K.J. (2002) Extinction and the loss of functional diversity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 269 (1501). pp. 1721-1727. ISSN 1471-2954


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Although it is widely thought to influence ecosystem processes, there is little consensus on an appropriate measure of functional diversity. The two major perspectives, to date, are to assume that every species is functionally unique, or to assume that some species are functionally identical, such that functional groups exist. Using a continuous measure of functional diversity (FD) derived from the quantitative functional traits of species, we show that the loss of functional diversity from six natural assemblages was rapid compared with rates of loss from comparable simulated assemblages. Loss of FD occurred faster than loss of functional-group diversity in four of the six natural assemblages. Patterns of functional-group diversity loss depended on the number of functional groups and the number of species in an assemblage.

Extinctions that occurred first for species with particular traits (e.g. low leaf nitrogen concentration, deep roots and large body size) caused greater loss of FD than expected by chance in four of the six natural assemblages. In two real assemblages, these trait-dependent extinctions had more severe effects on FD than our simulated worst-case extinction scenario. These data suggest that conserving a large proportion of the functional traits of species requires conserving a large proportion of all species.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © Royal Society, 2002. Reproduced in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Keywords: species richness, functional-group diversity, redundancy, trait-dependent extinction
Institution: The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Science (Sheffield) > School of Biological Sciences (Sheffield) > Department of Animal and Plant Sciences (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Repository Assistant
Date Deposited: 27 Jun 2006
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2014 15:44
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2002.2073
Status: Published
Publisher: The Royal Society
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1098/rspb.2002.2073
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1343

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