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Title: Island Biogeography. 2e.
Author(s): Robert J Whittaker and José María Fernández-Palacios
Date of Publication: 2007 Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pages:xii + 401 ISBN: 0 19 856611 5
Price: Format:Hardcover
Overview:
Target Readership Undergraduate
Presentation/Style
Content
Literature
Originality
Overall

 

 

 

 

 

 

Content: 1 – The natural laboratory paradigm; 2 - Island environments; 3 - The biogeography of island life: biodiversity hotspots in context; 4 - Species numbers games: the macroecology of island biotas; 5- Community assembly and dynamics; 6- Scale and island ecological theory; 7- Arrival and change; 8 -Speciation and island condition; 9 - Emergent models of island evolution; 10 - Island theory and conservation; 11 - Anthropogenic losses and threats to island ecosystems; 12 - Island remedies: the conservation of island ecosystems.

Review: Islands have held our fascination for centuries whether it be for colonisation or tourism. Of course, in an ecological sense they have also been seen as ideal places to study, not least because of their isolation from continental areas. It's in this context that islands continue to be seen as crucial laboratories: isolation can be a field as much as an ocean and 50 metres can be a greater hurdle to overcome than 50km for many terrestrial species. There's also the conservation angle to consider - an island can represent a nature reserve.

It's in these contexts that we get the second edition of this text. Subtitled 'ecology, evolution and conservation' we are given an immediate insight into the perspectives of the authors. The book is divided into four parts, each dealing with a specific element of current concern in island biogeography. The first deals with the paradigm of the natural laboratory for which the opening chapter provides us with further detail. We are reminded that whereas this is true it can also be misleading - islands come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and locations. Just how diverse is the focus of chapter two which starts by trying to classify (or at least outline the range of taxonomies) of islands and shows how environmental forces can shape their development. Chapter three turns to biodiversity and the arguments surrounding islands and hotspots. This has as much to do with how/where/when species arrive or become extinct and the surrounding conservation value and although much has been done in this area there is still some way to do to get an overarching model. Part two turns to island ecology starting with an analysis of the equilibrium theory of island biogeography and the development of notions of macroecology. One element here is the way in which species arrive and which ones continue to exist - i.e. assembly rules and dynamics. Although it seems an obvious that there should be some order to this, it has yet to be proven beyond doubt that there are specific pathways to ecosystem development. Chapter six addresses some of these doubts specifically starting with a critique of the dynamic equilibrium hypothesis and then looking at some alternative explanations. Part three explores another element - the evolution of islands in terms of biology. Chapter seven starts with an analysis of species arrival and subsequent development in the ecosystem. Chapter 8 turns to look specifically at the way in which islands can promote/affect speciation events and what we can learn from them. Finally, chapter 9 describes a range of models and hypotheses that have been used to describe island speciation. What's interesting here is that examples are not just islands but also other isolated areas such as the African lakes. Part four takes a practical perspective by examining the links between islands and conservation. Conservat8ion has been affected profoundly by the idea of islands not least because of the idea of fencing off nature (the reserve) from the other areas (the 'ocean' or isolating influence). Chapter 10 takes up this theme examining population numbers and reserve design. Again, what seems simple in theory becomes far more complex in practice. Chapter 11 analyses extinctions caused by human activity - numbers, causes and trends. A final chapter considers how such issues might be addressed.

This is an excellent review of current ideas. It describes the key concepts whilst at the same time allowing for debate where issues are far from clear. It's wealth of detail will provide cases that all can use (and an extensive bibliography will help with more specialised needs). Although too detailed for general educational use it should be a standard text in all undergraduate biogeography and conservation courses.

 

 

 

 

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