Contrasting multi-taxa functional diversity patterns along vegetation structure gradients of woody pastures
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Woody pastures represent keystone habitats for biodiversity in agricultural landscapes, contributing to increased resource availability, landscape heterogeneity and structural variability. High taxonomic diversity is closely linked to vegetation structure in woody pastures, but examining functional characteristics of species assemblages can shed more light on the ecological mechanisms driving divergent responses to habitat characteristics and help guide good management practices. To this end, we use a multi-taxa approach to investigate how plant, bat and bird taxonomic and functional diversity are affected by pasture tree and shrub density, structural complexity and proximate forest cover in southern Sweden. In particular, we use a trait exclusion approach to estimate the sensitivity of diversity-environment relationships to specific traits. We found little congruence between corresponding diversity metrics across taxa. Bird species richness responded stronger to environmental variables than functional diversity metrics, whereas the functional response to the environment was stronger than the taxonomic response among plants and bats. While increasing tree densities increased the taxonomic diversity of all three taxa, a simultaneous functional response was only evident for plants. Contrasting measures of vegetation structure affected different aspects of functional diversity across taxa, driven by different traits. For plants and birds, traits linked to resource use contributed particularly to the functional response, whereas body mass had stronger influence on bat functional diversity metrics. Multi-taxa functional approaches are essential to understand the effects of woody pasture structural attributes on biodiversity, and ultimately inform management guidelines to preserve the biological values in woody pastures.