The loss of species diversity due to habitat fragmentation has been extensively studied. In contrast, the impacts of habitat fragmentation on functional diversity remains relatively poorly understood. We conducted bird functional diversity studies on a set of 41 recently isolated land-bridge islands in the Thousand Island Lake, China.
We analysed differences in bird species richness and a recently developed suite of complementary functional diversity indices (FRic, volume of functional space occupied; FEve, evenness of abundance distribution in the functional trait space; FDiv, divergence in the distribution of abundance in the trait volume) across different gradients (island area and isolation).
We found no correlations between FRic and FEve or FEve and FDiv, but negative correlations between FRic and FDiv. As predicted, island area accounted for most of the variation in bird species richness, whereas isolation explained most of the variation in species evenness (decreasing species evenness with increasing isolation). Functional diversity appears to be more strongly influenced by habitat filtering as opposed to limiting similarity. More specifically, across all islands, both FRic and FEve were significantly lower than expected for randomly assembled communities, but FDiv showed no clear patterns. FRic increased with island area, FEve decreased with island area and FDiv showed no clear patterns.
Our finding that FEve decreases with island area at TIL may indicate low functional stability on such islands, and as such large islands and habitat patches may deserve extra attention and/or protection. These results help to demonstrate the importance of considering the effects of fragmentation on functional diversity in habitat management and reserve design plans.