Environmental Science Seminar with Prof. emer. Roland Brandl


 Environmental Science Seminar

Functional traits mediate the response of animal communities to environmental challenges

 Prof. emer. Roland Brandl
 Animal Ecology, Phillips-University Marburg, Hesse, Germany

Location: Chuo University, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Building 2, Room 2901


The biosphere shows distinct spatial patterns linked to environmental factors. In the case of plants, these patterns become visible e.g. as forests or grasslands. Plant communities with similar morphological appearance can be taxonomically very different, and botanists have developed concepts such as plant life-forms to obtain generally applicable tools for analysing such different groups. In zoology, the use of functional traits to predict the response of species to environmental factors also has a long history (e.g. ecogeographic rules), and the use of traits to predict community processes has recently developed into a hot topic in the face of global change. 

Body size is often utilized as a key trait that influences community composition across spatial and temporal scales in both ecto- and endothermic organisms: In endotherms, mean body size of communities decreases with increasing environmental temperature. In ectotherms, the direction of the response is less clear. Some taxonomic groups show a positive response (e.g. dragonflies), others a negative response (e.g. spiders). Body size is also used to standardize other traits correlated with body size (e.g. brain size). Recently, colour lightness has been recognized as a trait that influences the response of ectotherms to climatic characteristics: dark-coloured species dominate communities of high latitudes. This leads to the prediction that climate warming should allow light-coloured species to expand their northern range limits while the southern range limits of dark-coloured species may move northwards.  An explicit test of this prediction remains to be carried out, but discussions of potential consequences of such shifts for agriculture, forestry and ecosystem management should be started now.

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