The species composition of local communities varies in space, and its similarity generally decreases with increasing geographic distance between communities, a phenomenon known as distance decay of similarity. It is, however, not known how changes in local species composition affect ecological processes, that is, whether they lead to differences in the local composition of species' functional roles. We studied eight seed-dispersal networks along the South American Andes and compared them with regard to their species composition and their composition of functional roles. We tested (1) if changes in bird species composition lead to changes in the composition of bird functional roles, and (2) if the similarity in species composition and functional-role composition decreased with increasing geographic distance between the networks. We also used cluster analysis to (3) identify bird species with similar roles across all networks based on the similarity in the plants they consume, (i) considering only the species identity of the plants and (ii) considering the functional traits of the plants. Despite strong changes in species composition, the networks along the Andes showed similar composition of functional roles. (1) Changes in species composition generally did not lead to changes in the composition of functional roles. (2) Similarity in species composition, but not functional-role composition, decreased with increasing geographic distance between the networks. (3) The cluster analysis considering the functional traits of plants identified bird species with similar functional roles across all networks. The similarity in functional roles despite the high species turnover suggests that the ecological process of seed dispersal is organized similarly along the Andes, with similar functional roles fulfilled locally by different sets of species. The high species turnover, relative to functional turnover, also indicates that a large number of bird species are needed to maintain the seed-dispersal process along the Andes.
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© 2020 The Authors. Ecology published byWiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Ecological Society of America