Improving the application of vertebrate trait-based frameworks to the study of ecosystem services

Gary Luck, Sandra Lavorel, Sue McIntyre, Katrina Lumb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

211 Citations (Scopus)


1. Examining the consequences of environmental change for the provision of ecosystem services can be facilitated through trait-based frameworks that consider linkages between traits that influence a species' response to change and traits that determine its effect on ecosystem services.2. Developing these frameworks requires a systematic approach to trait selection and addressing the interrelationships among the scale of the environmental change, area of ecosystem service provision and the most appropriate traits for analysis.3. We examine key issues in the application of trait approaches to vertebrates, drawing specifically on the substantial progress made in this area for plants. We argue that vertebrate ecologists need to develop more coherent and systematic trait-based approaches that are broadly applicable.4. We present a new framework for selecting response and effect traits to link environmental change with ecosystem services. An empirical example of each step in the framework is provided using birds as a case study, linking the environmental change of loss of tree cover with the ecosystem service of invertebrate pest regulation in apple orchards. We found that as tree cover around orchards increased so did the abundance and foraging rate of bird species that pursue invertebrates in flight, and this may help reduce the abundance of certain pests of apples (e.g. adult stages of Cydia pomonella and Helicoverpa armigera).5. Implementing a systematic and transparent approach to trait selection should further refine the development of trait-based approaches for vertebrates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1065-1076
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012


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