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  1. Abstract Current models of island biogeography treat endemic and non‐endemic species as if they were functionally equivalent, focussing primarily on species richness. Thus, the functional composition of island biotas in relation to island biogeographical variables remains largely unknown. Using plant trait data (plant height, leaf area and flower length) for 895 native species in the Canary Islands, we related functional trait distinctiveness and climate rarity for endemic and non‐endemic species and island ages. Endemics showed a link to climatically rare conditions that is consistent with island geological change through time. However, functional trait distinctiveness did not differ between endemics and non‐endemics and remained constant with island age. Thus, there is no obvious link between trait distinctiveness and occupancy of rare climates, at least for the traits measured here, suggesting that treating endemic and non‐endemic species as functionally equivalent in island biogeography is not fundamentally wrong. 
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    Modeling species distributions over space and time is one of the major research topics in both ecology and conservation biology. Joint Species Distribution models (JSDMs) have recently been introduced as a tool to better model community data, by inferring a residual covariance matrix between species, after accounting for species' response to the environment. However, these models are computationally demanding, even when latent factors, a common tool for dimension reduction, are used. To address this issue, Taylor-Rodriguez et al. ( 2017 ) proposed to use a Dirichlet process, a Bayesian nonparametric prior, to further reduce model dimension by clustering species in the residual covariance matrix. Here, we built on this approach to include a prior knowledge on the potential number of clusters, and instead used a Pitman–Yor process to address some critical limitations of the Dirichlet process. We therefore propose a framework that includes prior knowledge in the residual covariance matrix, providing a tool to analyze clusters of species that share the same residual associations with respect to other species. We applied our methodology to a case study of plant communities in a protected area of the French Alps (the Bauges Regional Park), and demonstrated that our extensions improve dimension reduction and reveal additional information from the residual covariance matrix, notably showing how the estimated clusters are compatible with plant traits, endorsing their importance in shaping communities. 
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  4. The field of distributional ecology has seen considerable recent attention, particularly surrounding the theory, protocols, and tools for Ecological Niche Modeling (ENM) or Species Distribution Modeling (SDM). Such analyses have grown steadily over the past two decades—including a maturation of relevant theory and key concepts—but methodological consensus has yet to be reached. In response, and following an online course taught in Spanish in 2018, we designed a comprehensive English-language course covering much of the underlying theory and methods currently applied in this broad field. Here, we summarize that course, ENM2020, and provide links by which resources produced for it can be accessed into the future. ENM2020 lasted 43 weeks, with presentations from 52 instructors, who engaged with >2500 participants globally through >14,000 hours of viewing and >90,000 views of instructional video and question-and-answer sessions. Each major topic was introduced by an “Overview” talk, followed by more detailed lectures on subtopics. The hierarchical and modular format of the course permits updates, corrections, or alternative viewpoints, and generally facilitates revision and reuse, including the use of only the Overview lectures for introductory courses. All course materials are free and openly accessible (CC-BY license) to ensure these resources remain available to all interested in distributional ecology. 
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  6. Abstract

    An important focus of community ecology, including invasion biology, is to investigate functional trait diversity patterns to disentangle the effects of environmental and biotic interactions. However, a notable limitation is that studies usually rely on a small and easy‐to‐measure set of functional traits, which might not immediately reflect ongoing ecological responses to changing abiotic or biotic conditions, including those that occur at a molecular or physiological level. We explored the potential of using the diversity of expressed genes—functional genomic diversity (FGD)—to understand ecological dynamics of a recent and ongoing alpine invasion. We quantified FGD based on transcriptomic data measured for 26 plant species occurring along adjacent invaded and pristine streambeds. We used an RNA‐seq approach to summarize the overall number of expressed transcripts and their annotations to functional categories, and contrasted this with functional trait diversity (FTD) measured from a suite of characters that have been traditionally considered in plant ecology. We found greater FGD and FTD in the invaded community, independent of differences in species richness. However, the magnitude of functional dispersion was greater from the perspective of FGD than from FTD. Comparing FGD between congeneric alien–native species pairs, we did not find many significant differences in the proportion of genes whose annotations matched functional categories. Still, native species with a greater relative abundance in the invaded community compared with the pristine tended to express a greater fraction of genes at significant levels in the invaded community, suggesting that changes in FGD may relate to shifts in community composition. Comparisons of diversity patterns from the community to the species level offer complementary insights into processes and mechanisms driving invasion dynamics. FGD has the potential to illuminate cryptic changes in ecological diversity, and we foresee promising avenues for future extensions across taxonomic levels and macro‐ecosystems.

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  7. Abstract

    Recent work has shown that evaluating functional trait distinctiveness, the average trait distance of a species to other species in a community offers promising insights into biodiversity dynamics and ecosystem functioning. However, the ecological mechanisms underlying the emergence and persistence of functionally distinct species are poorly understood. Here, we address the issue by considering a heterogeneous fitness landscape whereby functional dimensions encompass peaks representing trait combinations yielding positive population growth rates in a community. We identify four ecological cases contributing to the emergence and persistence of functionally distinct species. First, environmental heterogeneity or alternative phenotypic designs can drive positive population growth of functionally distinct species. Second, sink populations with negative population growth can deviate from local fitness peaks and be functionally distinct. Third, species found at the margin of the fitness landscape can persist but be functionally distinct. Fourth, biotic interactions (positive or negative) can dynamically alter the fitness landscape. We offer examples of these four cases and guidelines to distinguish between them. In addition to these deterministic processes, we explore how stochastic dispersal limitation can yield functional distinctiveness. Our framework offers a novel perspective on the relationship between fitness landscape heterogeneity and the functional composition of ecological assemblages.

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