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Richness and composition of plants and birds on land‐bridge islands: effects of island attributes and differential responses of species groups

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Aim  To test relationships between the richness and composition of vascular plants and birds and attributes of habitat fragments using a model land‐bridge island system, and to investigate whether the effects of fragmentation differ depending on species natural history traits.

Location  Thousand Island Lake, China.

Methods  We compiled presence/absence data of vascular plant and bird species through exhaustive surveys of 41 islands. Plant species were assigned to two categories: shade‐intolerant and shade‐tolerant species; bird species were assigned to three categories: edge, interior, and generalist species. We analysed the relationships between island attributes (area, isolation, elevation, shape complexity, and perimeter to area ratio) and species richness using generalized linear models (GLMs). We also investigated patterns of composition in relation to island attributes using ordination (redundancy analysis).

Results  We found that island area explained a high degree of variation in the species richness of all species groups. The slope of the species–area relationship (z) was 0.16 for all plant species and 0.11 for all bird species. The lowest z‐value was for generalist birds (0.04). The species richness of the three plant species groups was associated with island area per se, while that of all, generalist, and interior birds was explained mainly by elevation, and that of edge bird species was associated primarily with island shape. Patterns of species composition were most strongly related to elevation, island shape complexity, and perimeter to area ratio rather than to island area per se. Species richness had no significant relationship with isolation, but species composition did. We also found differential responses among the species groups to changes in island attributes.

Main conclusions  Within the Thousand Island Lake system, the effects of fragmentation on both bird and plant species appear to be scale‐dependent and taxon‐specific. The number of plant species occurring on an island is strongly correlated with island area, and the richness of birds and the species composition of plants and birds are associated with variables related to habitat heterogeneity. We conclude that the effects of fragmentation on species diversity and composition depend not only on the degree of habitat loss but also on the specific patterns of habitat fragmentation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: The Key Laboratory of Conservation Biology for Endangered Wildlife of the Ministry of Education, College of Life Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China 2: Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, and the Center for Tropical Plant Conservation, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Miami, FL 33199, USA 3: School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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