Plant Health Program, Doctor of


First Advisor

Dr. Gary L. Hein

Document Type

Doctoral Document

Second Advisor

Dr. Jeffrey Bradshaw

Date of this Version

Spring 3-2023


A DOCTORAL DOCUMENT Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Plant Health, Major: Plant Health, Under the Supervision of Professors Gary L. Hein and Jeffrey Bradshaw. Lincoln, Nebraska: March, 2023

Copyright © 2023 Ali Loker


Biodiversity plays a critical role in supporting life in global ecosystems and its links to ecosystem services and sustainability are recognized by scientific and non-scientific communities. Growing awareness of the importance of biodiversity is accelerated by discussions of its loss, and how to design interventions to conserve and mitigate a biodiversity crisis. Stakeholders are funding and implementing assessment strategies at various scales to help direct conservation efforts. There is also growing interest in measuring and communicating biodiversity outcomes.

Functional biodiversity characterizes the multiplicity of life forms into groups based on their diverse contributions to natural and agro-ecosystems. Assessing functional biodiversity can elucidate mechanisms of relationships among species and ecosystems to help explain and predict ecosystem processes. Functional biodiversity assessments involve defining the purposes, ecosystem functions and traits to measure; how to put relative weights on each trait and create indices; and exploring how these can be used to evaluate agroecosystems and forests. Case studies from both agroecosystems and forest systems are presented along with a discussion of barriers and opportunities in designing and implementing functional biodiversity assessments. Participation from three stakeholder groups is discussed as a method to include relevant human dimensions and achieve more robust and effective conservation outcomes from functional biodiversity assessments.

Advisors: Gary L. Hein, Jeffrey Bradshaw