Contrasting impacts of land-use change on phylogenetic and functional diversity of tropical forest birds

Philip Chapman, Joseph Tobias, David Edwards, Richard Davies

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1.Biodiversity conservation strategies increasingly target maintaining evolutionary history and the resilience of ecosystem function, not just species richness (SR). This has led to the emergence of two metrics commonly proposed as tools for decision making: phylogenetic diversity (PD) and functional diversity (FD). Yet the extent to which they are interchangeable remains poorly understood.

2.We explore shifts in and relationships between FD and PD of bird communities across a disturbance gradient in Borneo, from old-growth tropical forest to oil palm plantation.

3.We show a marked decline in PD, and an increase in phylogenetic mean nearest taxon distance (MNTD) from forest to oil palm, in line with declining SR across the gradient. However, phylogenetic mean pairwise distance (MPD) is constrained by forest logging more than by conversion to oil palm, taking account of SR.

4.The decline in FD across the gradient is less severe than in PD, with all metrics indicating relatively high trait diversity in oil palm despite low SR, although functional redundancy is much reduced. Accounting for SR, levels of functional over- or under-dispersion of bird communities are strongly coupled to habitat disturbance level rather than to any equivalent phylogenetic metric.

5.Policy Implications. We suggest that while phylogenetic diversity (PD) is an improvement on species richness as a proxy for functional diversity (FD), conservation decisions based on PD alone cannot reliably safeguard maximal FD. Thus, PD and FD are related but still complementary. Priority setting exercises should use these metrics in combination to identify conservation targets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1604-1614
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Issue number4
Early online date16 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


  • biodiversity indices
  • disturbance
  • oil palm
  • selective logging
  • tropical rainforest
  • birds
  • phylogenetic diversity
  • species richness
  • functional diversity

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