Article out now!

Our article is out in Functional Ecology as a pre-print:

Really nice that this research finally see the light of day after years of going through the hoops!


The foundation stones of functional ecology

How sound are the fundamental concepts of trait-based ecology? The key ideas and historical context of functional trait-based ecology don’t get discussed as often as they should. Bill  Shipley et al explore arguably three of the most important ideas in the latest issue of Oecologia.  1. Functional traits are related to fitness, 2. Intraspecific trait variation doesn’t matter and 3. Traits respond to environmental gradients in a predictable way. They argue that these ideas are poorly developed and rarely tested mostly because a) exploring foundational concepts isn’t novel enough and b) it’s difficult to do so. For example , how can you measure fitness consequences of a functional trait for hundreds of species? The use plant-based perspective, but I think these points resonate even more for animal and parasite trait-based ecologists.

To my knowledge, for example, no one has looked into intraspecific variation of a functional trait  for any invertebrate group at least (please tell me if I’m wrong!). Understanding this variation, as the authors point out, could be critical for how communities respond to the environmental gradient e.g., trait plasticity enables a species to recolonize a disturbed habitat. This paper also calls for a more standardized approach to measuring environmental gradients, which is clearly lacking in all the trait databases. What is the point of standardized trait measurement approaches when we can’t link them to to environmental gradients measured in more or less the same way? I found this paper really useful reminder to just how tenuous the building blocks of functional ecology are. I would’ve liked to seen a section linking  in phylogenetic signal in traits as I really think this can help with understanding global trait patterns – I feel like phylogenetic information should be linked to trait databases also (worthy of another paper). Regardless, this is a really interesting article (and interesting issue!).

Shipley et al:

The issue:


A nice collection of papers from functional ecology

As the rise of phylogenetic community ecology continues, it is nice to periodically summarize some of the important streams of research happening in this exciting new discipline. This is exactly what Functional Ecology have done by putting together a a virtual issue highlighting some neat papers from across the discipline. The papers in are, of course, very plant focused but hopefully soon we can expand the envelope to look at animal and parasite communities as well. Stay tuned….

The link is here: