Worldwide decline of specialist species: toward a global functional homogenization?



Specialization is a concept based on a broad theoretical framework developed by evolutionary biologists and ecologists. In the past 10 years, numerous studies have reported that – in many contexts – generalist species are “replacing” specialist species. We review recent research on the concept of the ecological niche and species specialization, and conclude that (1) the observed worldwide decline in specialist species is predicted by niche theory, (2) specialist declines cause “functional homogenization” of biodiversity, and (3) such homogenization may be used to measure the impact of disturbance on communities. Homogenization at the community level could alter ecosystem functioning and productivity, as well as result in the deterioration of ecosystem goods and services. We propose community-level specialization as an indicator of the impact of global changes (habitat and climate disturbances) on biodiversity.