"Determining the biology and ecology of these fishesnoting what they do and how they do italters hotspots of diversity," says Lefcheck. "Coral reefs remain the most species-rich habitats on earth, but a trait-based view reveals new areas where the diversity of ways in which fishes function is even higher."
"Functional biodiversity is highest in places like the Galpagos with only moderate species counts," adds Duffy, "whereas functional biodiversity is low in many classical hotspots with high species counts, such as the iconic coral triangle of the west Pacific."
Lefcheck notes that the team's study also looked at how individuals are distributed among specieswhat scientists call "evenness," and that doing so further alters global diversity patterns.
"Coral reefs have lots of species but most individuals are doing largely the same thing, whereas temperate reefs with many fewer species tend to have individuals spread out more evenly among species that are doing different things," he explains.
The team's findings have important implications for planning and management. Lead author Stuart-Smith notes, "Incorporating information on functional traits into monitoring programs will add an extra dimension and greater ecological relevance to global efforts to manage and conserve marine biodiversity."
Says Lefcheck, "Loss of species in a community in which all species are doing different things may have greater consequences, since each species plays a unique role that can't be filled by any other species. Investing resources in conserving the most non-redundantand therefore vulnerablecommunities may have the greatest impact."
|Contact: David Malmquist|
Virginia Institute of Marine Science