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The mismeasure of islands: implications for biogeographical theory and the conservation of nature

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The focus on place rather than space provides geography with a powerful raison d’ĂȘtre. As in human geography, the functional role of place is integral to the understanding of evolution, persistence and extinction of biotic taxa. This paper re-examines concepts and biogeographical evidence from a geographical rather than ecological or evolutionary perspective. Functional areography provides convincing arguments for a postmodern deconstruction of major principles of the dynamic Equilibrium Theory of Island Biogeography (ETIB). Endemic oceanic island taxa are functionally insular as a result of long-term island stability, confinement, isolation, and protection from continental invasion and disturbance. Most continental taxa persist in different, more complex and open spatial systems; their geographical place is therefore fundamentally distinct from the functional insularity of oceanic island taxa. This creates an insular-continental polarity in biogeography that is currently not reflected in conservation theory. The focus on the biogeographical place leads to the development of the eigenplace concept defined as the functional spatial complex of existence. The application of still popular ETIB concepts in conservation biology is discouraged. The author calls for the integration of functional areography into modern conservation science.
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Keywords: Functional areography; conservation biology; continentality; eigenplace concept; geographical place; insularity; island biogeography; nature conservation

Document Type: Guest Editorial

Publication date: February 1, 2004

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