Current use of and future needs for soil invertebrate functional traits in community ecology

Abstract : Soil invertebrates are assumed to play a major role in ecosystem dynamics, since they are involved in soil functioning. Functional traits represent one of the main opportunities to bring new insights into the understanding of soil invertebrate responses to environmental changes. They are properties of individuals which govern their responses to their environment. As no clear conceptual overview of soil invertebrate trait definitions is available, we first stress that previously-described concepts of trait are applicable to soil invertebrate ecology after minor modification, as for instance the inclusion of behavioural traits. A decade of literature on the use of traits for assessing the effects of the environment on soil invertebrates is then reviewed. Trait-based approaches may improve the understanding of soil invertebrate responses to environmental changes as they help to establish relationships between environmental changes and soil invertebrates. Very many of the articles are dedicated to the effect of one kind of stress at limited spatial scales. Underlying mechanisms of assembly rules were sometimes assessed. The patterns described seemed to be similar to those described for other research fields (e.g. plants). The literature suggests that trait-based approaches have not been reliable over eco-regions. Nevertheless, current work gives some insights into which traits might be more useful than others to respond to a particular kind of environmental change. This review also highlights methodological advantages and drawbacks. First, trait-based approaches provide complementary information to taxonomic ones. However the literature does not allow us to differentiate between trait-based approaches and the use of a priori functional groups. It also reveals methodological shortcomings. For instance, the ambiguity of the trait names can impede data gathering, or the use of traits at a species level, which can hinder scientific interpretation as intra-specific variability is not taken into account and may lead to some biases. To overcome these shortcomings, the last part aims at proposing some solutions and prospects. It concerns notably the development of a trait database and a thesaurus to improve data management.
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Benjamin Pey, Johanne Nahmani, Apolline Auclerc, Yvan Capowiez, Daniel Cluzeau, et al.. Current use of and future needs for soil invertebrate functional traits in community ecology. Basic and Applied Ecology, Elsevier, 2014, 15 (3), pp.194-206. ⟨10.1016/j.baae.2014.03.007⟩. ⟨hal-01005001⟩

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