Functional ecology is the branch of ecology that focuses on the roles, or functions, that species play in the community or ecosystem in which they occur. In this approach, physiological, anatomical, and life history characteristics of the species are emphasized. It represents the true crossroads between ecological patterns and the processes and mechanisms that underlie them. Functional ecology often emphasises an integrative approach, using organismal traits and activities to understand community dynamics and ecosystem processes, particularly in response to the rapid global changes occurring in earth’s environment.
Functional ecology sits at the nexus of several disparate disciplines and serves as the unifying principle between evolutionary ecology, evolutionary biology, genetics and genomics, and traditional ecological studies.