An increasing number of studies indicate that past climate changes have elicited long-term disequilibria between species diversity and environment. It has, however, remained largely unstudied if these effects also constrain functional diversity despite its importance for ecosystem functioning. So far, we show that macro-scale functional diversity geographic patterns for European plants are indeed linked not just to contemporary environment, but also to Quaternary glacial-interglacial climate change, despite the last glaciation ending ~11,500 years ago. Hence, future climate change may elicit not just short-term shifts in ecosystem functioning, but potentially long-term functional disequilibria. Understanding the strength and generality of such long-term climate constraints on functional diversity will be paramount for predicting how ecosystem functions and services will be affected by future climatic conditions.
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Late Quaternary climate change is an important determinant of large-scale species diversity patterns, but it is currently unknown if its effects also extend to functional diversity and thus potentially ecosystem functioning. By quantifying the realized and maximum potential functional richness, evenness and dispersion for plant assemblages across Europe, we show that realized macro-scale functional diversity patterns are in disequilibrium with contemporary climate due to constraints posed by Quaternary climate change. These findings suggest that future climate change may elicit not just short-term shifts in ecosystem functioning, but potentially also long-term functional disequilibria. It is thus important to incorporate historical constraints on FD patterns and the underlying processes into dynamic vegetation models to establish the response of ecosystem functioning to future changes in climatic conditions.
Humans have extensively altered the environment, emphasizing the need metrics to assess the vulnerability to these changes. This project aims to develop a vulnerability assessment methodology, which would not only predict the possible effects of a changing environmental but also help the definition of targeted management guidelines and adaptation strategies