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Frontiers of Biogeography

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The macroecology of island floras


Islands are key model systems in biogeography and ecology. However, standardized data on environmental characteristics of the large number of islands worldwide have so far been lacking, and the effects of these characteristics on island ecology and biodiversity remain insufficiently understood. In my PhD thesis, I presented the first comprehensive environmental characterization of the world’s islands, covering past and present bioclimatic and physical island characteristics (including the spatial setting of islands and archipelagos). I used these data to investigate how island characteristics influence the diversity and assembly of island floras at different spatial scales and across major plant groups. To this end, I assembled a global database of vascular plant species composition including 45,000 species and covering 1,070 islands. I showed that different aspects of island environments affect different facets of insular diversity (species richness, turnover, phylogenetic diversity) across scales and major plant groups, in accordance with their predominant dispersal- and speciation-related traits and adaptations to climate. The results contribute to a better understanding of the environmental and evolutionary drivers of plant assemblage composition, on islands as well as on mainlands.

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