Using functional traits to investigate the determinants of crustacean zooplankton community structure


P. R. Peres-Neto, Dept of Biological Sciences, Univ. of Quebec at Montreal, CP8888, Succ. Centre Ville, Montreal, QC, H3C 3P8, Canada. E-mail:


Understanding the various processes contributing to community assembly is among the central aims of ecology. As a means of exploring this topic we quantified the relative influences of habitat filtering and competition in establishing patterns of community functional trait diversity across a landscape of lakes. Habitat filtering has been invoked in shaping community structure when co-occurring taxa are more similar in their traits than expected by chance (under-dispersion), and competition has been inferred as a structuring agent when co-occurring taxa are less similar (over-dispersion). We tested these hypotheses in crustacean zooplankton communities using a functional trait-based approach based on five traits defining zooplankton feeding and habitat preferences across 51 lakes spanning several large limnological gradients. In general, zooplankton communities were functionally less diverse than random assemblages created from the same regional species pool. Furthermore, functional diversity was strongly correlated with variables related to lake productivity, suggesting that access to resources was the chief habitat filtering process constraining zooplankton functional diversity. This pattern was driven by the predominantly herbivorous cladocerans as opposed to the more commonly omnivorous, and sometimes carnivorous, copepods.