Wednesday, August 10, 2016: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
Grand Floridian Blrm H, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center
Wendy Leuenberger, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Ross E. Boucek, Florida International University; and
Ashley L. Asmus, University of Texas Arlington
Ross E. Boucek, Florida International University
Maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem function is a critical challenge in ecology, particularly where humans have altered the disturbance regime via changes to climate, nutrient cycling and land use. Ecologists could inform proactive conservation practices by forecasting the consequences of disturbances; however, developing generalized predictions at the community level has shown to be quite difficult. One promising avenue is an analysis of functional traits: decomposing taxonomic communities into ecologically meaningful characteristics (Webb et al. 2010, Mouillot et al 2013). A handful of studies have shown that, relative to analyses of taxonomic community structure, functional trait-based analysis can provide more robust, universal predictions of ecosystem function following a disturbance. For instance, extreme weather events predictably restructure pelagic plankton communities according to motility (Özkundakci et al. 2015) and tropical fish communities according to temperature and salinity tolerance (Boucek et al. 2014). Despite the hypothesized benefit of using trait-based approaches to explain and predict community changes from disturbance, few studies adopt this approach relative to more traditional taxonomic community analyses. System-specific caveats can pose significant hurdles; for example, problems of scale in terrestrial ecology (Ames et al. 2014) or dynamic genetic processes in microbial ecology (Boon et al. 2014). In this session, we use case studies from diverse systems to answer: (1) are there universal functional trait responses to disturbance? (2) when does a functional trait response framework fail to predict ecosystem responses to disturbance? In this session, we provide case studies describing the functional response of communities following disturbance in a variety of communities and biomes. Many studies in this session leverage site-based Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) data for historical context for the disturbance regime and community response in question.