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Land‐use effects on the functional distinctness of arthropod communities

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Land‐use change is a major driver of the global loss of biodiversity, but it is unclear to what extent this also results in a loss of ecological traits. Therefore, a better understanding of how land‐use change affects ecological traits is crucial for efforts to sustain functional diversity. To this end we tested whether higher species richness or taxonomic distinctness generally leads to increased functional distinctness and whether intensive land use leads to functionally more narrow arthropod communities. We compiled species composition and trait data for 350 species of terrestrial arthropods (Araneae, Carabidae and Heteroptera) in different land‐use types (forests, grasslands and arable fields) of low and high land‐use intensity. We calculated the average functional and taxonomic distinctness and the rarified trait richness for each community. These measures reflect the range of traits, taxonomic relatedness and number of traits that are observed in local communities. Average functional distinctness only increased significantly with species richness in Carabidae communities. Functional distinctness increased significantly with taxonomic distinctness in communities of all analyzed taxa suggesting a high functional redundancy of taxonomically closely related species. Araneae and Heteroptera communities had the expected lower functional distinctness at sites with higher land‐use intensity. More frequently disturbed land‐use types such as managed grasslands or arable fields were characterized by species with smaller body sizes and higher dispersal abilities and communities with lower functional distinctness or trait richness. Simple recommendations about the conservation of functional distinctness of arthropod communities in the face of future land‐use intensification and species loss are not possible. Our study shows that these relationships depend on the studied taxa and land‐use type. However, for some arthropod groups functional distinctness is threatened by intensification and conversion from less to more frequently disturbed land‐uses.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2015

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