A functional perspective for breeding and wintering waterbird communities: temporal trends in species and trait diversity

15 February 2019

Almeida, Bia; Sebastián-González, Esther; dos Anjos, Luiz; Green, Andy J.; Botella, Francisco

Waterbird communities are prone to strong temporal changes both seasonally and annually, but little is known about how this affects their functional diversity and community assembly. Detecting temporal trends in taxonomic and functional diversity within (alpha diversity) and between (beta diversity) communities in breeding and wintering seasons could give insight into the ecological processes driving those trends. In this study, we investigated trends in wintering and breeding waterbirds within and between eleven wetlands in Mediterranean Spain, using a 28-year time-series up to 2017. We assessed the temporal trends in taxonomic and functional diversity measures, and compared observed functional diversity values with null expectations, in order to explore the mechanisms driving community assembly. We found increases over time in species richness and in the occupied functional space for both wintering and breeding communities, indicating that species with distinct functional roles were added in both seasons. However, the distribution of the abundances in the functional space was different for breeding and wintering communities. Dissimilarity of species and functional traits decreased among wetlands, suggesting that some of the same functional traits were added to the different wetlands, increasing regional homogenization through time. This is reflected in increases over time in mean body mass, diet plasticity and in the importance of fish in waterbird diets, plus declines in the dietary importance of invertebrates and in plasticity of feeding strata. Furthermore, species composition between wintering and breeding communities, but not trait composition, has become more similar through time. Our results highlight that annual changes, and especially seasonal changes, in the composition of waterbird communities have different effects on their functional diversity, and are influenced by opposing community assembly mechanisms.