Long-term trends in the phylogenetic and functional diversity of Anatidae in South China coastal wetlands


Anatidae are widespread and well known birds, including ducks and geese wintering on the South China coastal wetlands. They are important components of wetland biodiversity and provide important ecological functions. Historically, migratory ducks were an important protein source for people living in South China. Often, mover one million ducks and geese were killed during a single hunting season. Despite their importance and dramatic declines, no study quantifying the phylogenetic and functional historical trends of Anatidae in South China has been published.

Based on several complete censuses of anatid birds wintering in South China coastal wetlands during the 1950–2010s, we performed phylogenetic and functional analyses for historical anatid assemblage dynamics at the local scale. We observed asynchronous species, phylogenetic and functional diversity trends since the 1950s. Species diversity declined but without significant trends. For phylogenetic perspectives, the standardized effect size of the mean pairwise distance (ses.MPD) declined significantly (Fig. 1). For the body mass as a functional trait, functional richness (FRic) and functional dispersion (FDis) declined significantly (Fig. 2). We conclude that both basic phylogenetic diversity and body mass of anatid communities declined significantly over this time period. This was largely due to a decline in population size of genus Anser with larger body. This may make it more challenging for the anatid community to recover to its historical composition in the future.

Based on our results, we call for timely attention to the areas with serious loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity monitoring for such areas should be strengthened. Only by using the data of biodiversity dynamics can we identify and expand the key species and areas for biodiversity protection, and then take appropriate protection measures. Our results also provide excellent environmental consultations for the protection of biodiversity of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. This city group in the Pearl River Estuary is under development for an international first-class bay area for living, working and travelling.

    The above findings from Prof. Zou’s group were published in Ecological Applications, entitled " Long-term trends in the phylogenetic and functional diversity of Anatidae in South China coastal wetlands”. Link to the article: https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.2344

(Xianli Che from Institute of Zoology, Guangdong Academy of Sciences)


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