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Experimental Zoogeography of Islands: The Colonization of Empty Islands

Daniel S. Simberloff and Edward O. Wilson
Ecology
Vol. 50, No. 2 (Mar., 1969), pp. 278-296
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/1934856
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1934856
Page Count: 19
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Experimental Zoogeography of Islands: The Colonization of Empty Islands
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Abstract

We report here the first evidence of faunistic equilibrium obtained through controlled, replicated experiments, together with an analysis of the immigration and extinction processes of animal species based on direct observations. The colonization of six small mangrove islands in Florida Bay by terrestrial arthropods was monitored at frequent intervals for 1 year after removal of the original fauna by methyl bromide fumigation. Both the observed data and climatic considerations imply that seasonality had little effect upon the basic shape of the colonization curves of species present vs. time. By 250 days after defaunation, the faunas of all the islands except the most distant one (@'EI@') had regained species numbers and composition similar to those of untreated islands even though population densities were still abnormally low. Although early colonists included both weak and strong fliers, the former, particularly psocopterans, were usually the first to produce large populations. Among these same early invaders were the taxa displaying both the highest extinction rates and the greatest variability in species composition on the different islands. Ants, the ecological dominants of mangrove islands, were among the last to colonize, but they did so with highest degree of predictability. The colonization curves plus static observations on untreated islands indicate strongly that a dynamic equilibrium number of species exists for any island. We believe the curves are produced by colonization involving little if any interaction, then a gradual decline as interaction becomes important, and finally, a lasting dynamic equilibrium. Equations are given for the early immigration, extinction, and colonization curves. Dispersal to these islands is predominantly through aerial transport, both active and passive. Extinction of the earliest colonists is probably caused chiefly by such physical factors as drowning or lack of suitable breeding sites and less commonly by competition and predation. As population sizes increase it is expected that competition and predation will become more important. Observed turnover rates showed wide variance, with most values between 0.05 and 0.50 species/day. True turnover rates are probably much higher, with 0.67 species/day the extreme lower limit on any island. This very high value is at least roughly consistent with the turnover equation derived from the MacArthur-Wilson equilibrium model, which predicts turnover rates on the order of 0.1-1.0 species/day on the experimental islands.

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