Javier Ibarra Isassi

Concordia University
Ph.D. candidate

Supervisor: Jean-Philippe Lessard
Ira Tanya Handa
Start: 2016-05-01
End: 2018-04-01
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Ant functional diversity across broad-scale gradients and its influence on ecosystem processes
Using a trait-based approach to understand community structuring and their effect on ecosystem functions has been a crucial topic in ecology for the past decades. Although functional traits of plants have been extensively studied in the context of community assembly and ecosystem functioning, those of animals remain poorly understood. First, there is no general consensus regarding which traits are most relevant for animals in either context. Second, this lack of consensus hampers animal ecologists from asking important questions about the drivers of community structure and ecosystem functioning on a global scale. Due to the ubiquity of ants in terrestrial ecosystems, many studies highlight them as being ecosystem engineers, thus playing a key role in many ecosystem functions (directly or indirectly). In my research, I am (1) identifying morphological and life history traits that play a key role in community structuring and ecosystem functioning, (2) asking how these traits vary along broad scale environmental gradient, and (3) asking how changing the diversity of these traits in a community affect important ecosystem functions. More specifically, I am exploring whether ant traits follow any predictable patterns along environmental gradients, while also evaluating if the difference in functional composition influences arthropod community structure and, in turn, ecosystem functioning. To do this, I will be conducting field surveys with a standardized protocol along different environmental gradients. These field measurements will be complemented with existing global databases to expand my research to broader scales. With this study, I expect to expand our understanding of how the diversity of functional traits relate to the environment and structure communities, providing grounds to understand the mechanisms underpinning the link between animal functional diversity with ecosystem functions. Linking functional diversity patterns to ecosystem functions is key to developing better tools for the conservation of species beyond their taxonomical importance.


functional diversity, ecosystem functioning, community ecology, biogeography