Exploring the links between functional traits and population performance

Rob Salguero-Gómez has guest-edited a recently published special feature spanning three of the journals of the British Ecological Society: Functional Ecology, Journal of Animal Ecology, and Journal of Ecology. The special feature brings together novel and synthetic research exploring the linkages between organismal characteristics (e.g. wing length, body mass, seed size), life history strategies (e.g. longevity, rate of senescence) and population performance.

The motivation behind this special feature was to bring together two groups of ecologists, those using functional-trait approaches, and those using demographic approaches. Historically, both groups of ecologists have not spent much time sharing ideas, despite the obvious synergies that such communication could create.

In the editorial of this special feature, titled “Delivering the promises of trait-based approaches to the needs of demographic approaches, and vice versa”, Rob and his colleagues summarise some of the future collaborative enterprise that both sub-disciplines of ecology could embark on in order to build predictive models of species’ population performance, or to better understand which, where, how and whose functional traits are in fact “functional”. The latter is a rather hotly debated topic in the field: functional traits, molecular/histological/physiological/ontogenetic characteristics of organisms that are assumed to have fitness effects, have been thoroughly used to understand and predict community and ecosystem structuring and dynamics. However, these traits have often times not been validated for their demographic functionality. This special feature, with its 12 contributed publications, highlight the state of the art at the interface of functional ecology and population ecology.


Rob is a NERC Independent Research Fellow at the Dept of Zoology at Oxford and, starting September 2018, an Associate Professor in Ecology and Tutorial Fellow at Pembroke College.