Functional diversity is an important component of biodiversity, yet in comparison to taxonomic diversity, methods of quantifying functional diversity are less well developed. Here, we propose a means for quantifying functional diversity that may be particularly useful for determining how functional diversity is related to ecosystem functioning. This measure of functional diversity “FD” is defined as the total branch length of a functional dendrogram. Various characteristics of FD make it preferable to other measures of functional diversity, such as the number of functional groups in a community. Simulating species' trait values illustrates how the relative importance of richness and composition for FD depends on the effective dimensionality of the trait space in which species separate. Fewer dimensions increase the importance of community composition and functional redundancy. More dimensions increase the importance of species richness and decreases functional redundancy. Clumping of species in trait space increases the relative importance of community composition. Five natural communities show remarkably similar relationships between FD and species richness.