Trait-based approaches to zooplankton communities

E. Lichtman, M.D. Ohman, Thomas Kiørboe

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Zooplankton are major primary consumers and predators in most aquatic ecosystems. They exhibit tremendous diversity of traits, ecological strategies and, consequently, impacts on other trophic levels and the cycling of materials and energy. An adequate representation of this diversity in community and ecosystem models is necessary to generate realistic predictions on the functioning of aquatic ecosystems but remains extremely challenging. We propose that the use of trait-based approaches is a promising way to reduce complexity while retaining realism in developing novel descriptions of zooplankton in ecosystem models. Characterizing zooplankton traits and trade-offs will also be helpful in understanding the selection pressures and diversity patterns that emerge in different ecosystems along major environmental gradients. Zooplankton traits can be characterized according to their function and type. Some traits, such as body size and motility, transcend several functions and are major determinants of zooplankton ecological strategies. Future developments of trait-based approaches to zooplankton should assemble a comprehensive matrix of key traits for diverse groups and explore it for general patterns; develop novel predictive models that explicitly incorporate traits and associated trade-offs; and utilize these traits to explain and predict zooplankton community structure and dynamics under different environmental conditions, including global change scenarios
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Plankton Research
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)473-484
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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