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This content will become publicly available on August 23, 2024

Title: Shifting taxonomic and functional community composition of rivers under land use change

Land use intensification has led to conspicuous changes in plant and animal communities across the world. Shifts in trait‐based functional composition have recently been hypothesized to manifest at lower levels of environmental change when compared to species‐based taxonomic composition; however, little is known about the commonalities in these responses across taxonomic groups and geographic regions. We investigated this hypothesis by testing for taxonomic and geographic similarities in the composition of riverine fish and insect communities across gradients of land use in major hydrological regions of the conterminous United States. We analyzed an extensive data set representing 556 species and 33 functional trait modalities from 8023 fish communities and 1434 taxa and 50 trait modalities from 5197 aquatic insect communities. Our results demonstrate abrupt threshold changes in both taxonomic and functional community composition due to land use conversion. Functional composition consistently demonstrated lower land use threshold responses compared to taxonomic composition for both fish (urbanp = 0.069; agriculturep = 0.029) and insect (urbanp = 0.095; agriculturep = 0.043) communities according to gradient forest models. We found significantly lower thresholds for urban versus agricultural land use for fishes (taxonomic and functionalp < 0.001) and insects (taxonomicp = 0.001; functionalp = 0.033). We further revealed that threshold responses in functional composition were more geographically consistent than for taxonomic composition to both urban and agricultural land use change. Traits contributing the most to overall functional composition change differed along urban and agricultural land gradients and conformed to predicted ecological mechanisms underpinning community change. This study points to reliable early‐warning thresholds that accurately forecast compositional shifts in riverine communities to land use conversion, and highlight the importance of considering trait‐based indicators of community change to inform large‐scale land use management strategies and policies.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
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Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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