Special Session: The importance of functional diversity for biodiversity conservation planning

Functional measurements of biodiversity are more adept at describing the effects of habitat fragmentation and disconnection on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning than simple taxonomic measures, and are therefore more appropriate units of measurement for biodiversity conservation. A series of presentations will explore the consequences and implications of fragmentation on functional diversity in a mixed land-use mosaic, with important lessons for conservation planning and management.

Ecological communities are, by nature, highly diverse systems which require considerable information to adequately provision for, and maintain, the range of functional traits (e.g. dietary requirements and specialisation; foraging strategy; body mass; migratory strategy; habitat fidelity, etc.) required to perpetuate ecosystem services (e.g. pollination; seed dispersal; herbivorous insect population control; disease vector control, etc.). Measurements of biodiversity at the taxonomic level (i.e. species richness) does not sufficiently explain the relationship between species, communities, and their environments. For example, taxonomic diversity may remain at a relatively high level under fragmentation and isolation pressures, despite a high turnover (replacement of species), because communities become homogenised; i.e., habitat fragmentation puts pressure on certain (typically specialised) traits and concomitant species, while other (typically generalised) traits and concomitant species may thrive under the same pressure. Diverse communities of species with a wide variety of functional traits and a corresponding broad ecosystem functionality become replaced by a theoretically equally large number of species sharing a narrow variety of traits, at the expense of ecosystem functionality. Thus, functional measurements of biodiversity are more adept at describing the effects of habitat fragmentation and disconnection on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning and are therefore more appropriate units of measurement for biodiversity conservation. 

A series of presentations will explore the consequences and implications of fragmentation on functional diversity in a mixed land-use mosaic, with important lessons for conservation planning and management:

  • David Ehlers Smith - Promoting functional connectivity of anthropogenically-fragmented forest patches for multiple taxa across a critically endangered biome
  • Yvette Ehlers Smith - The influence of landscape-scale determinants in explaining mammalian functional diversity within a mixed land-use mosaic
  • Mfundo Maseko - The effects of habitat-patch size and patch isolation on the functional diversity of forest birds in Durban, South Africa
  • Jarryd Alexander - A multi-taxa functional diversity assessment of the effects of eco-estate development in the mixed land- use mosaic of the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, South Africa
  • Manqoba Zungu - Mammalian taxonomic and functional diversity in the urban metropole of Durban

Open session – researchers and practitioners are encouraged to submit relevant presentations for inclusion in this session. Participation in the session during the Symposium is open to all. Submissions that cannot be incorporated into the session by the convener will be considered for general sessions in the remainder of the programme.

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               | CLIMATE CHANGE
CO-MANAGEMENT
| GENETICS | ZONE OF INFLUENCE | RESEARCH-MANAGEMENT GAPPA VIABILITY |               
| INVASIVE SPECIESFUNCTIONAL DIVERSITY | MARINE PLASTICS
ELEPHANTS |

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