Species loss and gain in communities under future climate change: Consequences for functional diversity

Rachael V. Gallagher*, Lesley Hughes, Michelle R. Leishman

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    62 Citations (Scopus)


    It is anticipated that anthropogenic climate change will lead to substantial reassembly within communities in coming decades as individual species shift their ranges to track optimal conditions for growth and survival. As species are lost and gained in communities, what are the consequences for functional trait diversity? Functional traits are the characteristics of species that affect individual performance and provide the vital link between biodiversity at the species level and ecosystem function. We investigated how projected changes in species richness in plant communities under climate change scenarios for the decade 2050 will affect the distribution and diversity of five functional traits. We aggregated range change projections made in Maxent for the decade 2050 across all species in the regional pool of littoral rainforest vines in eastern Australia (n = 163 species). The effect of richness changes on trait diversity was assessed in nine rainforest reserves along the east coast of Australia. Although richness was predicted to significantly decline across all communities, functional diversity remained stable, indicating a decoupling in response to climate change at these two different levels of biological organization. A high degree of redundancy in trait composition in communities may buffer against the loss of function in these plant communities. Scaling-up our understanding of the impact of climate change from the species level to communities is a critical step towards developing conservation strategies aimed at preserving ecosystem function.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)531-540
    Number of pages10
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - May 2013


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