Nestedness in insular floras: Spatiotemporal variation and underlying mechanisms


Aims: Nestedness is a characteristic of insular metacommunity structure. Relatively few studies, however, have attempted to evaluate temporal changes in nestedness, or elucidate the mechanisms underlying nestedness. I evaluated both spatial and temporal patterns of nestedness in the insular floras of four archipelagoes of small islands in the Bahamas and the potential underlying environmental gradients.

Methods: The NODF (a nestedness metric based on overlap and decreasing fill) and the matrix temperature measure, T, were used to quantify nestedness in insular floras on small islands near Abaco, Andros, Great Exuma and the Exuma Cays, Bahamas. Two different null models were employed for each nestedness measure. Six environmental variables were evaluated in relation to nestedness by ordering islands according to gradients and recalculating NODF scores.

Important Findings: All archipelagoes were significantly nested. Nestedness among sites contributed more to overall nestedness than did nestedness among species. NODF scores varied among archipelagoes, but were surprisingly constant over time. Ordering islands by vegetated area yielded the highest nestedness scores for three archipelagoes; ordering islands by protection from exposure yielded the highest nestedness score for one archipelago. Nestedness scores varied little over time even though species compositions changed, indicating that extinctions occurred in a deterministic manner. The relative importance of area suggests extinction is an important mechanism in producing nestedness. Attempting to determine the relative importance of immigrations or extinctions requires some assumptions, however, and both processes are likely cumulative in most cases.



Document Type




Bahamas, Environmental gradient, Insular floras, Nestedness, NODF metric

Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Plant Ecology