Canadian Forest Service Publications

Functional markers to predict forest ecosystem properties along a rural‐to‐urban gradient. 2020. Cardou, F.; Aubin, I.; Bergeron, A.; Shipley, B. Journal of Vegetation Science 31(3):416-428.

Year: 2020

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 40099

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1111/jvs.12855

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Plain Language Summary

As the proportion of urbanized area continues to increase, it is crucial to understand how levels of urbanization modify the structure and function of ecological communities. In this paper, we investigate whether plant characteristics can linked to ecosystem properties that are sensitive to urbanization. Forty-three sites were sampled in southern Quebec that span five levels across a rural-urban gradient to determine the plant community, define these species using a trait approach and gather relevant environmental data. Plant traits were used, which are characteristics important for ecosystem function and/or individual fitness, overcome comparability challenges common with the species approach. Models were then developed that assess whether there are key traits that characterize properties related to notably decomposition, plant colonization and soil water infiltration across the urban gradient. Functional traits significantly predicted all three ecosystem properties, though predictive power of the models varied widely. Animal-related dispersal and seed production were found to be important for colonization, while root depth related traits were selected to predict water infiltration. Decomposition was predicted whether or not important environmental drivers were included. Plant traits have the potential to provide important information about ecosystem functioning. This approach could overcome the challenges in comparing species composition when making conservation decisions about urban woodlands.