Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function: Using Natural Attributes of Islands
Islands and island systems offer a number of gradients, attributes, and natural experiments that facilitate examination of relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem function. First, they are often simpler systems than continental areas, reducing the number of complicating variables. Numerous studies, for example, have shown that taxonomic diversity declines strongly with decreasing island size and increasing distance from continental areas (Ash 1992; MacArthur and Wilson 1967; Woodroffe 1987). Even though genetic diversity within species on islands is often high, the overall taxonomic diversity is usually low (Mueller-Dombois 1990). Second, a number of archipelagos contain islands that have similar geologic histories or features (e.g., the Bahamian islands) that reduce complexities in soil age and processes. This can greatly simplify studies of ecosystem processes where highly variable soil conditions make it difficult and sometimes impossible to understand ecosystem functions. Third, and importantly, islands offer a wide gradient of diversity, with natural variation in factors such as latitude, size, age, spatial arrangement, and pattern of disturbance. Many of these factors, notably size and distance from continents, strongly influence biodiversity. Use of these natural gradients and the resulting gradients in biodiversity offers the prospect of establishing natural experiments to examine relationships between biodiversity and functioning within ecosystems.
KeywordsEcosystem Function Taxonomic Diversity Natural Gradient Island System Isle Royale
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Ash J (1992) Vegetation ecology of Fiji: past, present, and future perspectives. Pac Sci 46:111–127Google Scholar
- MacArthur RH, Wilson EO (1967) The theory of island biogeography. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
- May RH (1974) Stability and complexity in model ecosystems. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
- McNaughton SJ (1993) Biodiversity and function of grazing ecosystems. In: Schulze ED, Mooney HA (eds) Biodiversity and ecosystem function. Ecological Studies, Vol. 99. Springer Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 361–383Google Scholar
- Mueller-Dombois D (1990) Impoverishment in Pacific island forests. In: Woodwell GM (ed) The Earth in transition: patterns and processes of biotic impoverishment. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, NY pp 199–210Google Scholar
- Soltz DL, Naiman RJ (1978) The natural history of fishes in the Death Valley system. Nat Hist Mus Los Ang Cty Sci Ser 30:1–76Google Scholar
- van Dobben WH, Lowe-McConnell RH (eds) (1975) Unifying concepts in ecology. Dr W Junk, The HagueGoogle Scholar
- Vitousek PM, Aplet G, Turner D, Lockwood JJ (1992) The Mauna Loa environmental matrix: foliar and soil nutrients. Oecologia 89: 372–382Google Scholar
- Woodroffe CD (1987) Pacific Island mangroves: distribution and environmental setting. Pac Sci 41:166–185Google Scholar