Research article

Evaluation of nine distance-based measures of functional diversity applied to forest communities

Jin-Tun Zhang , Naiqi Song, Lihong Fan

Jin-Tun Zhang
College of Life Sciences, Beijing Normal University, Xinwaidajie 19, Beijing, P. R. China. Email: zhangjt@bnu.edu.cn
Naiqi Song
School of Mathematical Sciences, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
Lihong Fan
College of Life Sciences, Beijing Normal University, Xinwaidajie 19, Beijing, P. R. China

Online First: November 16, 2012
Zhang, J., Song, N., Fan, L. 2012. Evaluation of nine distance-based measures of functional diversity applied to forest communities. Annals of Forest Research 56(1): 43-52.


Several methods for the estimation of functional diversity are employed in plant communities. However, it is hard to select the most suitable measures in practice. This work presents comparisons of nine distance-based measures applied to functional diversity analysis in forest communities (36 plots) along an elevational gradient in the Pangquangou Reserve, China. The employed indices and methods were: functional attribute diversity (FAD), Raos functional diversity (Raos index), single linkage (SL), complete linkage (CL), Unweighted Pair Group Method with Arithmetic Mean (UPGMA), Unweighted Pair-Group Method using Centroids (UPGMC), Median linkage (Median), fuzzy equivalence diversity (Fuzzy index) and minimum spanning tree index (MST). The results showed that all the nine measures successfully quantified the functional diversity in plant communities and described the changes along environmental gradient. It was concluded that all the employed indices and methods were equally effective and significantly correlated. Comparatively, fuzzy index, MST, UPGMC, UPGMA and Median were more suitable and should have priority over the other four measures in functional diversity analysis. A combination of a few measures of functional diversity within the same study was recommended. Functional diversity indices were significantly decreasing with elevation and correlated with species richness in the studied forest communities. 

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  • Jin-Tun Zhang
  • Naiqi Song
  • Lihong Fan
  • Jin-Tun Zhang
  • Naiqi Song
  • Lihong Fan