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Research article2009Peer reviewed

Patterns of invertebrate density and taxonomic richness across gradients of area, isolation, and vegetation diversity in a lake-island system

Jonsson, Micael; Yeates, Gregor W.; Wardle, David A.


Over the past half century, ecologists have tried to unravel the factors that drive species richness patterns in ecological communities. One influential theory is island biogeography theory (IBT), which predicts that island or habitat area and isolation are drivers of species richness. However, relatively few studies testing IBT have considered invertebrate or belowground communities, and it is unclear as to whether the predictions made by IBT hold for these communities. Other theories predict that habitat characteristics such as vegetation diversity may be important drivers of invertebrate species richness. To investigate patterns of invertebrate density and species richness across gradients of area, isolation, and vegetation diversity, we used a system of 30 lake islands in the boreal zone of northern Sweden. We assessed density and taxonomic richness of ground-dwelling spiders, web-building spiders, beetles, collembolans, mites, and nematodes, for all islands during two consecutive summers. For all invertebrate groups, both density and taxonomic richness were either neutrally or negatively related to island size, and either neutrally or positively related to island isolation. Meanwhile the density and taxonomic richness for several groups was positively related to vegetation diversity (i.e. habitat heterogeneity). In multiple regression analyses, island size was often the single best predictor for both invertebrate density and taxonomic richness, but in some cases island size and isolation in combination explained more variation than each factor considered singly. Contrary to IBT predictions, invertebrate density and richness was never positively related to island size or negatively related to island isolation. Instead, our results suggest that plant diversity (and thus habitat heterogeneity) was the main driver of the patterns that we found, although other factors could have some influence. We conclude that several factors, but not necessarily those predicted as important by IBT, are important in determining invertebrate abundance and species richness in island systems.

Published in

2009, Volume: 32, number: 6, pages: 963-972