Arthropod assemblage homogenization in oceanic islands: the role of indigenous and exotic species under landscape disturbance
Human landscape disturbance can drive the degradation of natural environments, thereby contributing to indigenous (endemic and native non-endemic) species extinctions, facilitating the establishment of exotic species and ultimately resulting in more similar species compositions over time and space. We assessed whether similarities in epigean arthropod assemblages differ between indigenous and exotic species in an oceanic archipelago, and we also examined whether such assemblage similarities depend on the most dominant species, the island, the type of habitat, the degree of landscape disturbance or local environmental variables.
Four oceanic islands in the Azores archipelago, Portugal.
We examined the degree of assemblage similarity and the effect of environmental variables and spatial disturbance to explain the epigean arthropod distributions for indigenous and exotic species.
Exotic species increased overall assemblage similarity. Distinct arthropod assemblages occurred on the different islands and in the different habitats. Assemblage differences between the habitats depended on the island. This pattern was largely explained by the abundance patterns of the most abundant indigenous and exotic species (ten indigenous and ten exotic species accounted for 75% of total individuals). In comparison with the high explanatory capacity of the habitats and islands per se, local environmental variables and disturbance hardly explained the assemblage composition in both groups of species.
We demonstrate that exotic species promote assemblage homogenization on these oceanic islands, and that such process is contingent and independent between islands and habitats. General habitat characteristics seemed to be the main driver of assemblage structure, independently of the different climatic conditions or disturbance levels.