Skip to main content

Subjecting the theory of the small‐island effect to Ockham’s razor

Buy Article:

$51.00 plus tax (Refund Policy)



Species–area curves from islands and other isolates often differ in shape from sample‐area curves generated from mainlands or sections of isolates (or islands), especially at finer scales. We examine two explanations for this difference: (1) the small‐island effect (SIE), which assumes the species–area curve is composed of two distinctly different curve patterns; and (2) a sigmoid or depressed isolate species–area curve with no break‐points (in arithmetic space). We argue that the application of Ockham’s razor – the principle that the simplest, most economical explanation for a hypothesis should be accepted over less parsimonious alternatives – leads to the conclusion that the latter explanation is preferable. We hold that there is no reason to assume the ecological factors or patterns that affect the shapes of isolate (or island) curves cause two distinctly different patterns. This assumption is not required for the alternative, namely that these factors cause a single (though depressed) isolate species–area curve with no break‐points. We conclude that the theory of the small‐island effect, despite its present standing as an accepted general pattern in nature, should be abandoned.

Document Type: Correspondence


Affiliations: Lillehammer University College, PO Box 952, NO-2604 Lillehammer, Norway

Publication date: September 1, 2011


Access Key

Free Content
Free content
New Content
New content
Open Access Content
Open access content
Subscribed Content
Subscribed content
Free Trial Content
Free trial content
Cookie Policy
Cookie Policy
Ingenta Connect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more