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Toward an Ecological Definition of an Island: A Northwest European Perspective

Yrjo Haila
Journal of Biogeography
Vol. 17, No. 6 (Nov., 1990), pp. 561-568
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/2845140
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2845140
Page Count: 8
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Toward an Ecological Definition of an Island: A Northwest European Perspective
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Abstract

The equilibrium theory of island biogeography of MacArthur and Wilson aimed at providing a unifying framework for studying insular ecology. However, the theory does not elaborate the concept of an `island' in an ecological framework. I suggest that different types of islands be ecologically defined on the basis of processes relative to which some ecologically interesting entities on those `islands' actually are isolated from their surroundings. Four main island scales can be discerned, namely, the scales of (1) individuals, (2) population dynamics, (3) population differentiation, and (4) evolutionary divergence. I illustrate these different island types and their interfaces with examples mainly from northwestern Europe. The equilibrium hypothesis seems relevant primarily on the population dynamics scale. A research programme following such differentiation would include two phases: first, assessment of factors which make the environment studied `insular', and second, construction of specific models for analysing ecological processes in those particular insular conditions.

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