Functional Traits in Ecological Research: What Have We Learned and Where Are We Going?
Wednesday, August 12, 2015: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
327, Baltimore Convention Center
Matthew E. Aiello-Lammens
John A. Silander Jr.
John A. Silander Jr.
Traits underlie the functional diversity of communities and ecosystems, shaping an organism's interactions with both its abiotic and biotic environment. The examination of functional traits involves research crossing multiple scales, from the genome to the biome, and multiple disciplines, from ecology to climatology. The last decade has seen an increased emphasis on connecting observed variation of functional traits with variation in environmental conditions. Many studies in community ecology in particular relate species functional traits to environmental conditions to explain observed patterns of community composition and species co-occurrence. Not only has this spurred on interesting ecological studies, but it has also stimulated the development of new analysis methods and techniques. Further, functional trait variation is increasingly studied in ways that help us understand the evolutionary processes yielding that variation. This integration is a major component of many projects funded through the National Science Foundationís Dimensions of Biodiversity program. Given the increased emphasis on functional traits in recent years, now is an opportune time to examine examples demonstrating what we have learned, as well as to look at where we are going. In this organised oral session we will look at how analyses of functional trait diversity have helped to explain ecological patterns in multiple different biomes in different regions of the world, many of which are areas with high biodiversity and high levels of endemism. Collectively these studies investigate inter- and intra-specific competition, community assembly, local adaptation, and the evolutionary processes yielding functional trait diversity. This session also strives to present a view of what functional trait research can offer in the future. Several of the presentations include novel analysis methods that overcome long-standing challenges to the analysis of functional traits. These methods, in conjunction with insights from previous studies, will help the analysis of functional traits continue to be a valuable tool in ecological research.