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It is important to be able to name the plants and animals in one’s environment, but knowing the names does not in and of itself advance the study of ecology. Frank Rigler argued that the species-oriented approach to studying ecology is intractable simply because of the time it would take to obtain enough information on each species to generalize to the community scale. Life on Earth can be named (or classified) in two complementary ways, using phylogeny and functional traits. Trait matrices provide the raw material for trait-based ecology. Compilations and screening are two distinct sources of data for trait matrices. Compilation of traits across studies is an important way of generating data for global-scale synthesis. Screening traits of local communities in the field or under standard conditions is the most effective way of generating quality data for local communities.
This book addresses an important problem in ecology: how are communities assembled from species pools? This pressing question underlies a broad array of practical problems in ecology and environmental science, including restoration of damaged landscapes, management of protected areas, and protection of threatened species. This book presents a simple logical structure for ecological assembly and addresses key areas including species pools, traits, environmental filters, and functional groups. It demonstrates the use of two predictive models (CATS and Traitspace) and consists of many wide-ranging examples including plants in deserts, wetlands, and forests, and communities of fish, amphibians, birds, mammals, and fungi. Global in scope, this volume ranges from the arid lands of North Africa, to forests in the Himalayas, to Amazonian floodplains. There is a strong focus on applications, particularly the twin challenges of conserving biodiversity and understanding community responses to climate change.
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