Functional group (ecology)

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In ecology, functional groups are collections of organisms based on morphological, physiological, behavioral, biochemical, environmental responses or on trophic criteria.

In ocean biogeochemical modelling, the following four criteria have been proposed:[1]

  • That the collection of organisms, called a plankton function type (PFT), should have an explicit biogeochemical role
  • that the PFT should be defined by a distinct set of physiological, environmental, or nutrient requirements controlling its biomass and productivity,
  • that the behavior of the PFT should have distinct effects on the performance of other PFTs, for instance, through selective depletion of nutrients or grazing, and
  • that the PFT should be of quantitative importance in at least some region of the ocean.


  1. ^ Le Quere et al. (2005). Ecosystem dynamics based on plankton functional types for global ocean biogeochemistry models. Global Change Biology Vol 11 (11), 2016-2040, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2005.001004.x

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