Biological Trait Analysis

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Definition of Biological trait:
A biological trait is a specific characteristic stored within the genetic material of an organism, that determines some specific aspect of how it looks or how it interacts with its environment.
This is the common definition for Biological trait, other definitions can be discussed in the article

No single 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]).

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

Biological Traits Analysis (BTA) is based on habitat templet theory, which states that species’ characteristics evolve in response to habitat constraints by selecting organisms that can both colonise and thrive (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[5]).

Related articles

Functional diversity
Biodiversity and Ecosystem function
Measurements of biodiversity
Marine Biodiversity


  1. Giller, P. S., Hillebrand, H., Berninger, U. G., Gessner, M. O., Hawkins, S. J., Inchausti, P., Inglis, C., Leslie, H. A., Malmqvist, B., Monaghan, M. T., Morin, P. J. and O'Mullan, G. 2004. Biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning: emerging issues and their experimental test in aquatic environments. Oikos 104: 423-436
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bremner, J. 2008. Species' traits and ecological functioning in marine conservation and management. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 366: 37-47
  3. Naeem, S., Chapin, F. S., Costanza, R., Ehrlich, P. R., Golley, F. B., Hooper, D. U., Lawton, J. H., O'Neill, R. V., Mooney, H. A., Sala, O. E., Symstad, A. J. and Tilman, D. 1999. Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning: Maintaining Natural Life Support Processes. Issues in Ecology. Ecological Society of America, Washington, 4: 11
  4. Snelgrove, P. V. R. 1998. The biodiversity of macrofaunal organisms in marine sediments. Biodiversity and Conservation 7: 1123-1132.
  5. 5.0 5.1 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
  6. Diaz, S. and Cabido, M. 2001. Vive la difference: plant functional diversity matters to ecosystem processes. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 16: 646-655
  7. Statzner, B., Resh, V. H. and Roux, L. A. 1994. The synthesis of long-term ecological research in the context of concurrently developed ecological theory: design of a research strategy for the Upper Rhone River and it's floodplain. Freshwater Biology 31: 253-263
  8. Southwood, T. R. E. 1977. Habitat, the templet for ecological strategies? Journal of Animal Ecology 46: 337-365
  9. Lavorel, S., McIntyre, S., Landsberg, J. and Forbes, T. D. A. 1997. Plant functional classifications: from general groups to specific groups based on response to disturbance. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 12: 474-478
  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 (2024): Biological Trait Analysis. Available from [accessed on 13-07-2024]