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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2009 Jun 27;364(1524):1683-92. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0317.

Contrasting spatial patterns of taxonomic and functional richness offer insights into potential loss of ecosystem services.

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Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST/NRF Center of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, Republic of South Africa.


Functional and trophic perspectives on patterns of species occurrences have the potential to offer new and interesting insights into a range of spatially explicit problems in ecology and conservation. We present the function-area relationship (FAR) and explore linkages between functional and taxonomic species richness for South African birds. We first used beak morphology to classify a subset of 151 South African bird species into 18 functional groups and calculated both the species-area relationship and the FAR at quarter-degree resolution for South Africa. The relationship between functional and taxonomic richness by cell was quadratic rather than linear, with considerable scatter around the curve. We next looked at the spatial relationships between taxonomic diversity and response diversity (i.e. diversity within functional groups) using an a priori categorization of nearly all South African birds into nine functional groups. The spatial distribution of response richness also showed considerable variation in relation to taxonomic richness. Our results demonstrate a novel approach to linking taxonomic, functional and trophic patterns in space and suggest a way in which conservation planning, which has traditionally had a taxonomic focus, could formally incorporate a more functional and food-web-based approach.

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