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The effect of small-scale topography on patterns of endemism within islands

  • Author(s): Cutts, Vanessa
  • Katal, Negin
  • Löwer, Caroline
  • Algar, Adam C.
  • Steinbauer, Manuel J.
  • Irl, Severin D.H.
  • Beierkuhnlein, Carl
  • Field, Richard
  • et al.
Abstract

Topography influences evolutionary and ecological processes by isolating populations and enhancing habitat diversity. While the effects of large-scale topography on patterns of species richness and endemism are increasingly well documented, the direct effect of local topography on endemism is less understood. This study compares different aspects of topographic isolation, namely the isolating effect of deep barrancos (ravines) and the effect of increasing isolation with elevation in influencing patterns of plant endemism within a topographically diverse oceanic island (La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain). We collected plant presence–absence data from 75 plots in 8 barrancos on the northern coast of La Palma, spanning an elevation gradient from 95 to 674m a.s.l. Using mixed-effects models, we assessed the effect of barranco depth and elevation on the percentage of single-island endemics, multi-island endemics, and archipelago endemics. We found that percent endemism was not significantly correlated with barranco depth and correlated negatively with elevation within barrancos (rather than the expected positive relationship). The topographic barriers associated with the deep island barrancos thus appear insufficient to drive speciation through isolation in oceanic island plants. The decrease in endemism with elevation contradicts findings by previous broader-scale studies and it may reflect local influences, such as high habitat heterogeneity at low elevations.

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