Background: Possibly the most pressing aspect of decreased biodiversity for the remaining life on earth is the potential alteration, impairment, or failure of ecosystem functioning. Ecosystem functioning refers to the total biogeochemical processes occurring within an ecosystem and is essentially, the cycling of nutrients, matter and energy. It has been hypothesized that the amount of relevant biotic traits in a community, or its functional diversity, is the most appropriate “tool” to be used when investigating ecosystem functioning, as this is the biological aspect that directly relates to the functioning of an ecosystem. One of the most commonly cited definitions of functional diversity is that of Tilman (2001) “…the values and range in the values, for the species present in an ecosystem, of those organismal traits that influence one or more aspects of the functioning of an ecosystem.” Therefore, the greater the number of species in a particular functional group, the greater the functional redundancy of the group (assuming the species within the group differ to some extent), be it an effect or response group. Functional diversity can also be used as a tool to estimate the ecological interactions occurring in an ecosystem, and the potential changes in these interactions due to changes in assemblage species composition.
1) Functional traits- statistical significant functional groups of Western Australian fishes can be creates both a priori and post- hoc, based on relevant functional traits. This section includes in- depth methods and predicted outcomes
2) Changes in functional diversity within and among regions- Functional diversity and functional groups of western Australian marine fishes will differ among regions with respect to environmental conditions and anthropogenic impacts. Also has in-depth methods and predicted outcomes.
3) Temporal variability in functional diversity- temporal variability in fish species biomass will not be observed at the functional group level; instead the relative biomass contributions of species to a functional group will fluctuate. Methods and Predicted outcomes.
4) The influence of fishing upon functional diversity- marine fish functional diversity and the relative biomass contribution of marine fishes to functional groups at the Abrolhos Islands will be altered with respect to fishing intensity.
5) Comparison of geographically isolated marine fish assemblages utilizing functional diversity- functional diversity and functional groups of marine fishes will not differ among geographically separated comparable ecosystems.
6) Predicting the effects of climate change upon fish assemblage through functional diversity- The poleward distribution change of species will be able to be predicted through the use of changes in functional response groups, and the potential regional change in ecosystem functioning approximated through the resulting changes in functional effect groups. Methods and Predicted Outcome and then references.
A Candidature Plan was formed and so was an outline of the budget. A description of fieldwork was presented and the supervisors as well.
Reference: Research Proposal for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Western Australia, 2009. Title: Environmental and Anthropogenic Influences upon Western Australian Marine Fish Functional Diversity and Functional Groups.