From fungi to flies: broadening the use of functional traits in conservation
Convened by: Samantha Dawson, Alexander Duthie, Carlos Pérez Carmona, Manuela Gonzalez-Suarez, Mari Jönsson
Global decline of biodiversity poses a serious threat to the sustainability of myriad ecosystems and their functions on which human well-being depends . To address this threat, a mechanistic approach that focuses on the functional traits of organisms has two advantages. First, mechanisms for sustaining ecosystems will likely depend most directly on the degree to which relevant species' functional traits are expressed, rather than the presence or absence of individual species per se . Second, an emerging trait-based approach to community ecology, combined with modern coexistence theory, has led to a revolution in predicting species distributions and population dynamics . Hence, a focus on species functional traits may be instrumental to conserving populations of interest by more accurately predicting the conditions under which species persistence versus extinction will occur. These insights can then be used in practice to enhance planning, management and outcomes of conservation efforts . Nevertheless, most ecological studies of functional traits, including those with direct applications to conservation, focus exclusively on plants [e.g., 5-6]. In this workshop, we will discuss the opportunities and challenges to applying a functional trait-based approach to conservation more broadly, and with particular emphasis on non-plant systems. We will focus especially on three questions relevant to how a trait-based approach to conservation can improve planetary wellbeing: In what conservation contexts could functional traits provide more insights than species identities? How can functional traits be used when investigating ecosystems functions and services to maximise human and ecosystem wellbeing? And how can recent advances in community ecology, grounded in plant functional traits, be more broadly applied to non-plants to inform conservation goals? By addressing these three questions, we will thereby evaluate the scope and merits of a trait-based framework for conservation in the Anthropocene that can be broadly applied across taxa.
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