This week at QAECO we’ve been talking about plant and animal traits.
We kick-started our discussion by reading McGill et al.’s (2006) paper on functional traits. The authors point out that general principals in community ecology are difficult to find. They argue that a research focus on traits and environmental gradients will lead to a more quantitative, general and predictive science.
McGill et al. outline a research agenda centred on four themes: functional traits, environmental gradients, the ‘interaction milieu’, and performance currencies. We thought the paper gave a good introduction to the fast-growing field of functional ecology.
A key point that came out of our discussion was that there is a need to develop better theory to guide our trait-based predictions. So, we thought we’d take this opportunity to introduce some of the trait-based work that is underway (or has recently been completed) by the QAECO team.
We have a particular focus on the application of trait-based research to conservation science:
- Fire ecology. Freya Thomas is working on a PhD incorporating plant functional traits into mechanistic models of plant growth and reproduction.
- Landscape modification. Georgia Garrard, Mick McCarthy, Peter Vesk and colleagues modelled the relationship between wingspan and dispersal ability of woodland birds, and used this information to predict responses to landscape fragmentation.
- Invasion ecology. Jane Catford and colleagues are studying the influence of plant traits on biological invasions.
- Detectability. Georgia Garrard has just completed a paper exploring how plant traits influence detectability.
- Environmental gradients. Laura Pollock, Will Morris and Peter Vesk created a novel model that linked functional traits of species to underlying environmental gradients. Felix Lim is doing related work on functional traits and environmental gradients in frost hollows.
- Global change. Mick McCarthy and Peter Vesk were part of team that modelled plant extinctions in urban areas worldwide. Luke Kelly is modelling the extinction risk of vertebrates in fragmented tropical ecosystems.
By Freya, Laura, Luke and team