• Community ecology;
  • Functional group;
  • Guild;
  • North America;
  • Trait

Abstract. In this paper we review the search for guilds in plant communities, and provide a summary of the process, emphasizing five steps: (1) defining function, (2) selecting traits which reflect function, (3) screening for those traits, (4) constructing trait matrices, and (5) grouping species according to these traits. We illustrate this process for wetland plant species based upon a matrix of 27 traits and 43 species from across eastern North America. The 43 species were selected to represent the widest range of life history types possible as well as both common species and nationally rare or endangered species. We found three main functional groups: ruderals, matrix and interstitial species, which we subdivide into a total of seven guilds. The growing number of such studies in the literature suggest that this may be an expedient measure for conservation biology and a promising one for predictions.