The trait-based approach to ocean life is emerging as a novel framework for understanding the complexity, structure, and dynamics of marine ecosystems, but also their broader significance. Rather than considering species individually, organisms are characterized by essential traits that capture key aspects of diversity. Trait distributions in the ocean emerge through evolution and natural selection, and are mediated by the environment, biological interactions, anthropogenic drivers, and organism behavior. Because trait variations within and across communities lead to variation in the rates of crucial ecosystem functions such as carbon export, this mechanistic approach sheds light on how variability in the environment, including climate change, impacts marine ecosystems, biogeochemical cycles, and associated feedbacks to climate and society.
Quote from Barton & al (2016). Report on the “Trait-based approaches to ocean life” scoping workshop.
Picture taken at the 2015 workshop in New Hampshire, lining up the participants along the axis from gene to globe in their research agenda.