Biological traits approaches in benthic marine ecology: Dead ends and new paths

Silvia de Juan, Julie Bremner, Judi Hewitt, Anna Törnroos, Maria Cristina Mangano, Simon Thrush, Hilmar Hinz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
63 Downloads (Pure)


Biological traits analysis (BTA) links community structure to both ecological functions and response to environmental drivers through species’ attributes. In consequence, it has become a popular approach in marine benthic studies. However, BTA will reach a dead end if the scientific community does not acknowledge its current shortcomings and limitations: (a) uncertainties related to data origins and a lack of standardized reporting of trait information; (b) knowledge gaps on the role of multiple interacting traits on driving the organisms’ responses to environmental variability; (c) knowledge gaps regarding the mechanistic links between traits and functions; (d) a weak focus on the spatial and temporal variability that is inherent to the trait expression of species; and, last but not least, (e) the large reliance on expert knowledge due to an enormous knowledge gap on the basic ecology of many benthic species. BTA will only reach its full potential if the scientific community is able to standardize and unify the reporting and storage of traits data and reconsider the importance of baseline observational and experimental studies to fill knowledge gaps on the mechanistic links between biological traits, functions, and environmental variability. This challenge could be assisted by embracing new technological advances in marine monitoring, such as underwater camera technology and artificial intelligence, and making use of advanced statistical approaches that consider the interactive nature and spatio-temporal variability of biological systems. The scientific community has to abandon some dead ends and explore new paths that will improve our understanding of individual species, traits, and the functioning of benthic ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere9001
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Dive into the research topics of 'Biological traits approaches in benthic marine ecology: Dead ends and new paths'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this