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vidually explain far less variation in the richness of naturalized species. For example, human population size (79%), island area (71%), island maximum elevation (49%), and date of European settlement (31%) explain significant amounts of the variation but account for far less than that of native species richness. Indeed, even a multiple regression analysis with these and other island characteristics generates a model that accounts for less of the variation in naturalized species richness than is explained by native richness alone (see Methods). It is unclear why native plant richness is such a good predictor of naturalized plant richness, but the strength of the relationship suggests that it may provide clues into understanding how richness patterns are likely to change in the future.

Plant invasion patterns provide several lines of evidence that suggest islands might be “filling-up” or becoming “saturated” with species. First, the most species-poor islands (oceanic as opposed to continental) have increased in plant richness the most. Second, many islands are now coming close to matching the species richness levels of continental environments. Third, patterns of increase are highly consistent among oceanic islands, where a close to perfect doubling in species richness of plants has occurred. This doubling might represent a new saturation point for species richness. If this has occurred and a saturation point has been reached, then it would be valuable to know the mechanism by which it has done so, e.g., whether it arose from colonization-based or extinction-based saturation. Alternatively, it would be valuable to know whether no saturation point has been reached. Distinguishing among these alternatives is critical, because they paint very different pictures for the future for plant biodiversity on islands.


Colonization-based saturation will occur if the probability of adding new species to an area decreases over time as net richness increases—at some point, as an area fills up, the probability of adding any additional species will become so low that an effective saturation point will be reached (Stachowicz and Tilman, 2005). In some ways, this is a special case of Elton’s invasion hypothesis (Elton, 1958), which postulated that species-rich regions would be more difficult to invade than species-poor ones. In regards to islands, if a colonization-based saturation point has been reached, then new species cannot be added unless existing species are removed. This situation appears to have occurred for birds on islands, where native birds that were driven extinct (largely by naturalized mammal predation and human hunting) have been replaced by an approximately similar number of naturalized bird species [most of which invaded after the natives were already extinct (Sax et al., 2002)]. The importance of

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