Biological Trait Analysis

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No one individual parameter can be used to describe the functioning of entire ecosystems (Giller et al., 2004[1]), so consideration of multiple variables may be the most appropriate way to shed light on the concept (Bremner, 2008[2]).

One of the most promising of the recently proposed approaches to measure Functional Diversity is Biological Traits Analysis (BTA) (Statzner et al., 1994[3]). Biological traits analysis uses a series of life history, morphological and behavioural characteristics of species present in assemblages to indicate aspects of their ecological functioning (here defined as the maintenance and regulation of ecosystem processes, after Naeem et al. (1999[4]). The roles performed by benthic species are important for regulating ecosystem processes (Snelgrove, 1998[5]) and these roles are determined by the biological traits species exhibit (Bremner et al., 2006[6]). The approach aims to provide a description of multiple aspects of functioning based on features of the biological ecosystem component. It does this by utilising specific species traits as indicators of functioning (functional traits; Diaz and Cabido, 2001[7] ) and examining the occurrence of these traits over assemblages (Bremner 2008[2]).

Biological Traits Analysis (BTA) is based on habitat templet theory, which states that species’ characteristics evolve in response to habitat constrain (Southwood 1977[8]). Community structure is governed by habitat variability and the biological traits exhibited by organisms will provide information about how they behave and respond to stress (Lavorel et al. 1997[9]), thereby indicating the state of the environment (Usseglio-Polatera et al. 2000[10]). BTA uses multivariate ordination to describe patterns of biological trait composition over entire assemblages (i.e. the types of trait present in assemblages and the relative frequency with which they occur) (Bremner et al.,2006[6]).

Related articles

Biodiversity and Ecosystem function
Measurements of biodiversity
Marine Biodiversity


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  6. 6.0 6.1 Bremner, J., Gogers, I. and Frida, C.L.J. 2006. Methods for describing ecological functioning of marine benthic assemblages using biological traits analysis (BTA). Ecological Indicators 6: 609-622
  7. Diaz, S. and Cabido, M. 2001. Vive la difference: plant functional diversity matters to ecosystem processes. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 16: 646-655
  8. Southwood, T. R. E. 1977. Habiat, the templet for ecological strategies? Journal of Animal Ecology 46: 337-365
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  10. Usseglio-Polatera, P., Bournard, M., Richoux, P. & Tachet, H. 2000. Biomonitoring through biological traits of benthic macroinvertebrates: how to use species trait databases? Hydrobiologia 422/423: 153-162
The main author of this article is Vassiliki, Markantonatou
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Vassiliki, Markantonatou (2020): Biological Trait Analysis. Available from [accessed on 30-05-2023]