Trait-based approaches, that characterize organisms based on their ecological traits, are emerging as novel frameworks to understand the structure, diversity, and functioning of ecosystems.
Traits are any quantitative characteristics of an organism that affects individual growth, reproduction, or survival (body size, diet, fecundity, and investment in protection, etc.). As trait variations within and across species and communities can lead to variations in crucial ecosystem functions, such as rates of carbon export or productivity of higher trophic levels, trait-based approaches can provide a mechanistic understanding of how environmental variability, including climate change, affects ecosystem structure and functioning and, ultimately, the provision of marine ecosystem services.
While trait-based studies have spurred significant advances in terrestrial plant ecology, uptake is just beginning in the marine realms. Recent initiatives aim to build a research community with the tools to understand how functional traits can scale upwards to global biogeochemical cycles and their feedback to climate.
We invite contributions on the following themes: