A distance-based framework for measuring functional diversity from multiple traits

Ecology. 2010 Jan;91(1):299-305. doi: 10.1890/08-2244.1.


A new framework for measuring functional diversity (FD) from multiple traits has recently been proposed. This framework was mostly limited to quantitative traits without missing values and to situations in which there are more species than traits, although the authors had suggested a way to extend their framework to other trait types. The main purpose of this note is to further develop this suggestion. We describe a highly flexible distance-based framework to measure different facets of FD in multidimensional trait space from any distance or dissimilarity measure, any number of traits, and from different trait types (i.e., quantitative, semi-quantitative, and qualitative). This new approach allows for missing trait values and the weighting of individual traits. We also present a new multidimensional FD index, called functional dispersion (FDis), which is closely related to Rao's quadratic entropy. FDis is the multivariate analogue of the weighted mean absolute deviation (MAD), in which the weights are species relative abundances. For unweighted presence-absence data, FDis can be used for a formal statistical test of differences in FD. We provide the "FD" R language package to easily implement our distance-based FD framework.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation
  • Demography*
  • Models, Biological*