|The importance of trait selection on the meaning of functional diversity in benthic studies
In: Frontiers in Marine Science. Frontiers Media: Lausanne. e-ISSN 2296-7745, meer
benthic invertebrate; response trait; effect trait; life strategy; ecosystem functioning; functional diversity
The ways living forms develop in the biosphere are the same everywhere: growing and surviving for an ultimate reproductive success. In this achievement, organisms need to cope with various environmental constraints, but they have found solutions over evolutionary time by combining differently life history traits. Studying these adaptation processes has been in the heart of functional ecology, with a growing research endeavour in the marine benthos, particularly well suited given its presence in habitats of highly variable spatio-temporal dynamics. The marine benthos is subject to a particularly appealing research interest as, next to its diversity of life cycles, it ensures crucial ecosystem functions. This has led to numerous compilations of biological trait data sets in which very different functional information can be found. In recent years, trait-based benthic ecology has been strongly fostered by functional diversity assessments (Weigel et al., 2016; Breine et al., 2018; Llanos et al., 2020; Murillo et al., 2020; Sutton et al., 2020; Dreujou et al., 2021; Zhulay et al., 2021; Gusmao et al., 2022; Robinson et al., 2022; Festjens et al., 2023). Nowadays, benthic ecologists dispose of sophisticated analytical tools that can process various sets of traits to generate functional diversity indices (FD). However, FD assessments have been done in various contexts with mixed types of traits, often without specifying the theoretical links between traits and FD, which brings the meaning of FD subject to debate. In this opinion piece, I point out important issues regarding FD assessment in the marine benthos in the context of ecosystem functioning.