Functional diversity in nematode communities across terrestrial ecosystems

Valentina Sechi*, Ron G.M. De Goede, Michiel Rutgers, Lijbert Brussaard, Christian Mulder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Functional diversity can be defined as the distribution of trait values within a community. Hence, functional diversity can be an indicator of habitat filtering and a reliable environmental predictor of ecosystem functioning. However, there is a serious lack of studies that test how functional diversity indices change depending on the environmental conditions. The aim of this study is to provide such evidence by analyzing the distribution and variation of continuous body-mass values (i.e. functional diversity) and related shifts in body length and width in a nematode community. We used a large online dataset on nematode traits to analyze: (i) the distribution of body mass using three functional diversity indices, i.e. functional richness, functional divergence and functional evenness; (ii) the shifts in body-size traits (length and width); and (iii) the body-mass distributions of five trophic groups and of the entire nematode community. Managed grasslands exhibited the widest range of body-mass values while body-mass distribution in arable fields covered the greatest area in comparison to the other ecosystem types. The shift in body size revealed environmental filters that could not have been identified by the study of functional diversity indices per se. We found low values of functional evenness to be associated with high values of functional richness. We provide novel empirical evidence that body-mass distribution within a trophic group mirrors the effects of habitat filtering more than the distribution in the community as a whole. Hence, our trait-based approach, more than functional diversity itself, disclosed soil food-web structure and identified community responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-86
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Early online date26 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • Body-size distribution
  • Functional divergence
  • Functional evenness
  • Functional richness
  • Functional trait
  • Trophic groups

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