Linking functional diversity, trait composition, invasion, and environmental drivers in boreal wetland plant assemblages

Brandon E. Allen, Ermias T. Azeria, Jason T. Bried

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Questions: A range of landscape and local environmental factors, including invasion, interact with species functional diversity and trait composition to shape biodiversity patterns and ecosystem function of wetlands. A trait-based, mechanistic understanding of community assembly holds promise for wetland conservation, but this has been rarely examined across scales. We examined: (a) the relative influence of climate, landscape matrix, and local physicochemistry on invasion intensity and functional diversity in boreal wetland plant assemblages; and (b) the ecological traits linked to these environmental factors. Location: One hundred fifty-three wetlands across the Boreal Forest of Alberta, Canada. Methods: We used data on invasion intensity, using two terrestrial invaders (Sonchus arvensis and Cirsium arvense), and environmental factors at local and landscape levels. We used eight traits from 366 vascular plants to assess functional diversity and invasion responses to environmental gradients (generalized linear models) and individual species trait–environment relationships (community-weighted mean redundancy analysis, fourth-corner analysis). Results: Landscape matrix and the degree of invasion were the primary drivers of functional diversity, while invasion intensity was driven by physicochemistry and functional diversity. Community trait–environment patterns clearly separated wetlands by invasion status. Uninvaded wetlands were surrounded by lowland conifers and composed of stress-tolerant associated traits, while invaded wetlands contained high levels of disturbance and traits associated with high resource availability and reproduction rates. This division was further supported by individual trait–environment relationships. Conclusions: Landscape matrix was the dominant driver of functional diversity and composition pattern, while the local physicochemistry and surrounding land-cover matrix helped explain invasion. Our analysis revealed some of the mechanistic relationships shaping plant community assembly across boreal wetlands, information that can help resource managers identify, predict, and alleviate possible threats from landscape anthropogenic disturbances to wetland ecological integrity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13073
JournalJournal of Vegetation Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • boreal wetlands
  • landscape ecology
  • land use
  • invasion ecology
  • hydrophytes
  • human footprint
  • functional diversity
  • fourth corner
  • community composition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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