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Ecol Lett. 2009 Jan;12(1):22-33. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01255.x.

Loss of functional diversity under land use intensification across multiple taxa.

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Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.


Land use intensification can greatly reduce species richness and ecosystem functioning. However, species richness determines ecosystem functioning through the diversity and values of traits of species present. Here, we analyze changes in species richness and functional diversity (FD) at varying agricultural land use intensity levels. We test hypotheses of FD responses to land use intensification in plant, bird, and mammal communities using trait data compiled for 1600+ species. To isolate changes in FD from changes in species richness we compare the FD of communities to the null expectations of FD values. In over one-quarter of the bird and mammal communities impacted by agriculture, declines in FD were steeper than predicted by species number. In plant communities, changes in FD were indistinguishable from changes in species richness. Land use intensification can reduce the functional diversity of animal communities beyond changes in species richness alone, potentially imperiling provisioning of ecosystem services.

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