• Biogeography;
  • equilibrium theory;
  • extinction;
  • immigration;
  • islands;
  • MacArthur & Wilson;
  • nonequilibrium;
  • paradigm shift


MacArthur and Wilson’s equilibrium theory revolutionized the field of island biogeography and, to a large degree, ecology as well. The theory, which quickly became the ruling paradigm of island biogeography, has changed little over the past three decades. It has not kept pace with relevant theory and our growing appreciation for the complexity of nature, especially with empirical findings that species diversity on many islands: 1) is not in equilibrium; 2) is influenced by differences in speciation, colonization, and extinction among taxa; and 3) is influenced by differences among islands in characteristics other than area and isolation. The discipline of biogeography, itself, is in a state of disequilibrium. We may again be about to witness another paradigm shift, which will see the replacement of MacArthur and Wilson’s theory. Wherever this shift may take us, we are confident that the next generation of biogeographers will still look to islands for insights into the forces that shape biological diversity.