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Turnover of passerine birds on islands in the Aegean Sea (Greece)

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Abstract Aim 

We wish to determine the effect of migratory status on turnover rates in island birds. Because turnover is influenced by factors other than migratory status, we also considered the influence of body size and physical characteristics of the islands inhabited on the probabilities of extinction and immigration. Location 

The Mediterranean islands of Delos, Astypalea, Paros, Naxos and Lesvos in the Aegean Sea, Greece. Methods 

The passerine birds of these islands were surveyed between 1954 and 1961 by G.E. Watson, and were resurveyed between 1988 and 1992. The effects of migratory status and body size on the probabilities of extinction and immigration were examined by G-tests of linear trend in proportion, and analysis of variance, respectively. A combined analysis of migratory status, body size and physical characteristics of the islands was carried out using logistic regressions of the probabilities of extinction and immigration on these factors. Results 

Species number on each island changed little between surveys, with no island's species number changing by more than one species. Twelve population extinctions and 11 immigrations were recorded. The smallest island, Delos (6 km2), had the highest annualized relative turnover rate (1.08), while the four larger islands (96–1614 km2) had lower and mutually similar rates (0.21–0.27). Populations on higher elevation islands were less likely to go extinct. There is no evidence for an effect of body size on the probabilities of extinction or immigration. Migratory status affected extinction and immigration probabilities differently: migratory species were more likely to immigrate, but less likely to go extinct. Main conclusions 

The position of the Aegean islands along a major north–south flyway may account for the observed effects of migratory status. The annual passage of large numbers of migrants may, via the rescue effect, decrease the chances of extinction, while at the same time increasing the chances of colonization of unoccupied islands. The likelihood of both extinction and immigration involves a complex interaction between life-history traits and island characteristics. The effects of migratory status will depend not only on consideration of vagility, vulnerability and stochasticity identified by previous authors, but also upon the location of the islands in relationship to migratory pathways.

Keywords: Aegean Sea; Greece; birds; body size; extinction; immigration; island biogeography; migratory status

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2007

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