Recent studies argue that plant functional traits should be the corner stone for a more quantitative and predictive approach to biodiversity and species coexistence. In this perspective, functional diversity, i.e. the diversity and range of functional traits, should be a new and promising ecological metrics through its predictive potential. Mechanisms, by which plant traits are selected across environmental filters to further constitute a plant community, remain to be established, however. The main aim of this proposal is to develop a unified trait-based approach to plant community through identifying and quantifying mechanisms - i.e. the relative importance of abiotic and biotic filters - shaping functional diversity and plant community structure. During the outgoing phase, the applicant will combine and analyse existing extensive databases including plant traits, species coexistence and abundance, and environmental information to address key issues on how environmental filters act on community structure. During the reintegration phase, the fellow will apply the developed methods on a European trait database to assess effects of land-use changes on plant communities in European landscapes. This work will significantly advance our current understanding of the ecological importance of functional diversity and will provide new insights into mechanisms determining biodiversity patterns and the structure of plant communities. This proposal aims to reinforce the international dimension of the career of the applicant by giving him the opportunity to be trained and acquire new and multidisciplinary knowledge in community ecology and eco-informatics within a high-level research lab. By organizing and leading workshops with senior researchers, the fellow will also improve his independent thinking and management skills. Finally, the project will improve mutually beneficial research cooperation between researchers from Europe and North America.
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