Functional diversity: a tool for answering challenging ecological questions


(corresponding author,


Functional trait diversity provides a powerful means of addressing ecology's persistent questions, through its dual role as an indicator of mechanisms driving differences in species composition between communities and as a predictor of ecosystem-level processes. Functional traits provide a means of testing mechanisms behind species turnover between communities because environmental heterogeneity, competition and disturbance influence species fitness via their traits. Functional traits also provide a link between species and multiple ecosystem-level processes, such as primary productivity, nutrient fluxes and resilience, since species influence these processes via their traits. This special issue demonstrates that functional diversity offers a practical means of investigating ecology's persistent questions.