Plant species persistence and turnover on small Bahamian islands


I conducted surveys of the plant species occupying 136 small islands in the Exuma Cays and 58 small islands near Andros, Bahamas. Most species occurred on relatively few islands, and most islands contained relatively few species. Identities of the most common species differed between the two archipelagos. Comparisons with earlier surveys revealed species extinctions and immigrations. Turnover was relatively low on both a per island and a per species basis on both archipelagos, although significant spatial variation in turnover rates between archipelagos was found. Most islands experienced no turnover; islands on which turnover did occur were larger and had higher species richness. Likewise, most species did not turnover, although much variation existed in turnover rates among those that did. Experimental introductions of two species to very small islands naturally devoid of vegetation revealed that these islands could support plant life. One species survived on eight of ten islands for >9 years, including the effects of a moderate (class 2) hurricane. This hurricane caused substantial damage and loss of plant biomass, but resulted in no species extinctions on 30 small islands. Data for the small islands in this region, now spanning almost a decade, reveal that most populations are persistent over periods of years to decades, rarely going extinct or immigrating. Even moderate hurricanes seem to have little impact on species compositions.

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Extinction, Hurricane, Immigration, Island biogeography, Metapopulation

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