Interspecific differences in environmental response blur trait dynamics in classic statistical analyses

Type Article
Date 2019-12
Language English
Author(s) McLean Matthew1, 2, Mouillot David2, Villéger Sébastien4, Graham Nicholas A. J.3, Auber ArnaudORCID1
Affiliation(s) 1 : Unité Halieutique Manche Mer du Nord, IFREMER, Boulogne-sur-Mer, France
2 : MARBEC Université de Montpellier, CNRS, IFREMER, IRD, Montpellier Cedex, France
3 : Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University Lancaster, UK
4 : MARBEC Université de Montpellier, CNRS, IFREMER, IRD, Montpellier Cedex, France
Source Marine Biology (0025-3162) (Springer Science and Business Media LLC), 2019-12 , Vol. 166 , N. 12 , P. 152 (10p.)
DOI 10.1007/s00227-019-3602-5
WOS© Times Cited 1

Trait-based ecology strives to better understand how species, through their bio-ecological traits, respond to environmental changes, and influence ecosystem functioning. Identifying which traits are most responsive to environmental changes can provide insight for understanding community structuring and developing sustainable management practices. However, misinterpretations are possible, because standard statistical methods (e.g., principal component analysis and linear regression) for identifying and ranking the responses of different traits to environmental changes ignore interspecific differences. Here, using both artificial data and real-world examples from marine fish communities, we show how considering species-specific responses can lead to drastically different results than standard community-level methods. By demonstrating the potential impacts of interspecific differences on trait dynamics, we illuminate a major, yet rarely discussed issue, highlighting how analytical misinterpretations can confound our basic understanding of trait responses, which could have important consequences for biodiversity conservation.

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