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The role of habitat disturbance on biodiversity is central as it promotes changes in ecological systems. That said, still little is known about the functional consequences of such changes. Functional diversity can be used to revealing more mechanistically the disturbance effects on communities by considering the richness and the distribution of traits among the species. Here we analyzed the response of functional and species diversity of ground beetles to flood disturbance to better understand the functioning of alluvial invertebrate communities.

Ground beetles were sampled in periodically flooded grasslands along the Elbe River in Germany. We used generalized linear mixed effects models to unveil the relationships between flood disturbance, species and functional diversity, respectively. We measured different components of functional diversity (functional richness, evenness, dispersion, and divergence) and analyzed species diversity by means of rarefied species richness, abundances, evenness and Simpson's diversity.

We found contrasting relationships in that most species diversity measures peaked at highest disturbance levels, while most functional diversity measures decreased with increasing disturbance intensities.

Inversed relationships between species and functional diversity are rarely observed, as most studies report on positive correlations. We explain increasing species diversity with a higher amount of resources available in highly disturbed sites. Decreasing functional diversity is best explained through the convergence of species traits by flood disturbance and uneven resource exploitation in highly disturbed plots (low functional evenness), suggesting strong impacts from functionally different generalist species in floodchannels. We show that the amount of resources available, and how these resources are exploited, play major roles in the functioning of floodplain ground beetle communities.