Low functional richness and redundancy of a predator assemblage in native forest fragments of Chiloe Island, Chile

Authors


Correspondence author. E-mail: afarias@bio.puc.cl

Summary

1. Changes in land use and habitat fragmentation are major drivers of global change, and studying their effects on biodiversity constitutes a major research programme. However, biodiversity is a multifaceted concept, with a functional component linking species richness to ecosystem function. Currently, the interaction between functional and taxonomic components of biodiversity under realistic scenarios of habitat degradation is poorly understood.

2. The expected functional richness (FR)–species richness relationship (FRSR) is positive, and attenuated for functional redundancy in species-rich assemblages. Further, environmental filters are expected to flatten that association by sorting species with similar traits. Thus, analysing FRSR can inform about the response of biodiversity to environmental gradients and habitat fragmentation, and its expected functional consequences.

3. Top predators affect ecosystem functioning through prey consumption and are particularly vulnerable to changes in land use and habitat fragmentation, being good indicators of ecosystem health and suitable models for assessing the effects of habitat fragmentation on their FR.

4. Thus, this study analyses the functional redundancy of a vertebrate predator assemblage at temperate forest fragments in a rural landscape of Chiloe island (Chile), testing the existence of environmental filters by contrasting an empirically derived FRSR against those predicted from null models, and testing the association between biodiversity components and the structure of forest fragments.

5. Overall, contrasts against null models indicate that regional factors determine low levels of FR and redundancy for the vertebrate predator assemblage studied, while recorded linear FRSR indicates proportional responses of the two biodiversity components to the structure of forest fragments. Further, most species were positively associated with either fragment size or shape complexity, which are highly correlated. This, and the absence of ecological filters at the single-fragment scale, rendered taxonomically and functionally richer predator assemblages at large complex-shaped fragments.

6. These results predict strong effects of deforestation on both components of biodiversity, potentially affecting the functioning of remnants of native temperate forest ecosystems. Thus, the present study assesses general responses of functional and taxonomic components of biodiversity to a specific human-driven process.

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