Island biogeographical theory: Can it be used to predict lotic recovery rates?

  • Gore J
  • Milner A
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Classic island biogeographic theory predicts that equilibrium will be reached when immigration and extinction rates are equal. These rates are modified by number of species in source area, number of intermediate islands, distance to recipient island, and size of intermediate islands. This general model has been variously modified and proposed to be a stochastic process with minimal competitive interaction or heavily deterministic. Predictive models of recovery (regardless of the end point chosen) have been based on the appropriateness of the MacArthur-Wilson models. Because disturbance frequency, severity, and intensity vary in their effect on community dynamics, we propose that disturbance levels should first be defined before evaluating the applicability of island biogeographical theory. Thus, we suggest a classification system of four disturbance levels based on recovery patterns by primary and secondary succession and faunal organization by primary (invasion of vacant areas) and secondary (remnant of previous community remains) processes. Level 1A disturbances completely destroy communities with no upstream or downstream sources of colonizers, while some component of near surface interstitial or hyporheic flora and fauna survive level 1B disturbances. Recovery has been reported to take from five years to longer than 25 years, when most invading colonists do not have an aerial form. Level 2 disturbances destroy the communities but leave upstream and downstream colonization sources (level 2A) and, sometimes, a hyporheic pool of colonizers (level 2B). Recovery studies have indicated primary succession and faunal structuring patterns (2A) with recovery times of 90–400 days or secondary succession and faunal structuring patterns (2B) with recovery times of 40–250 days. Level 3 disturbances result in reduction in species abundance and diversity along a stream reach; level 4 disturbances result in reduction of abundance and diversity in discrete patches. Both disturbance types lead to secondary succession and secondary faunal organization. Recovery rates can be quite rapid, varying from less than 10 days to 100 or more days. We suggest that island biogeographical models seem appropriate to recovery by secondary processes after level 3 and 4 disturbances, where competition may be an important organizing factor, while models of numerical abundance and resource tracking are probably of better use where community development is by primary succession (levels 1 and 2). Development of predictive recovery models requires research that addresses a number of fundamental questions. These include the role of hydrologic patterns on colonization dynamics, the role of nonaerial colonizers in recovery from level 1 disturbances, and assessment of the impact of changes in the order of invasion by colonizers of varying energetic efficiencies. Finally, we must be able to assemble these data and determine whether information that guides community organization at one level of disturbance can provide insights into colonization dynamics at other levels.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Colonization
  • Disturbance
  • Equilibrium
  • Island biogeography
  • Predictive models
  • Recovery

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  • James A. Gore

  • Alexander M. Milner

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