Functional Trait Diversity

Functional Trait Diversity (work in progress)

In addition to incorporating natural flows into urban environments, maintaining a biologically diverse structure is essential for healthy urban communities.  Diversity of flora and fauna is important to the long-term resiliency of the ecological system and it has intrinsic social benefits. Sandra Diaz, an ecosystems ecologist, wrote a recent paper on Functional Trait Diversity and the Societal Benefits of Ecosystems that explored the functional traits of organisms and their responses to their environment.  In 2010 at the Conference on Biodiversity + General Assembly, she explained “the concept of functional trait diversity (the kind, range and relative abundance of the functional traits of the organism present in a system) is increasingly used in understanding the links between biodiversity and the various benefits that societies derive from ecosystems”.  (Diaz 2010) As Diaz argues, functional trait diversity is an effective way of connecting biodiversity and ecological services.  It allow for ecosystem services to be understood as an interdependent relationship between humans and nature.

Kristina Hill extends the argument to the disciplines of landscape architecture and urban planning, opining “that from a functional point of view, trait diversity matters to ecosystem performance more than species diversity. It is in our direct interests as humans to conserve and promote trait diversity, in order to increase the ability of the ecosystems around us to provide us with basic services – like cleaning our air and water through biological processes.” (Hill, Managing the Effects of Climate Change 2010)Functional traits are the key way that organisms interact with their environment and their effect on the overall function of ecosystem.   Understanding and quantifying the relationships between social benefits and healthy ecosystem could go a long way to supporting an environmental ethic.

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