Changes in bird functional diversity across multiple land uses: interpretations of functional redundancy depend on functional group identity

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Examinations of the impact of land-use change on functional diversity link changes in ecological community structure driven by land modification with the consequences for ecosystem function. Yet, most studies have been small-scale, experimental analyses and primarily focussed on plants. There is a lack of research on fauna communities and at large-scales across multiple land uses. We assessed changes in the functional diversity of bird communities across 24 land uses aligned along an intensification gradient. We tested the hypothesis that functional diversity is higher in less intensively used landscapes, documented changes in diversity using four diversity metrics, and examined how functional diversity varied with species richness to identify levels of functional redundancy. Functional diversity, measured using a dendogram-based metric, increased from high to low intensity land uses, but observed values did not differ significantly from randomly-generated expected values. Values for functional evenness and functional divergence did not vary consistently with land-use intensification, although higher than expected values were mostly recorded in high intensity land uses. A total of 16 land uses had lower than expected values for functional dispersion and these were mostly low intensity native vegetation sites.Relations between functional diversity and bird species richness yielded strikingly different patterns for the entire bird community vs. particular functional groups. For all birds and insectivores, functional evenness, divergence and dispersion showed a linear decline with increasing species richness suggesting substantial functional redundancy across communities. However, for nectarivores, frugivores and carnivores, there was a significant hump-shaped or non-significant positive linear relationship between these functional measures and species richness indicating less redundancy. Hump-shaped relationships signify that the most functionally diverse communities occur at intermediate levels of species richness. Interpretations of redundancy thus vary for different functional groups and related ecosystem functions (e.g. pollination), and can be substantially different to relationships involving entire ecological communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalPLoS One
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2013


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