Invasibility and species richness of island endemic arthropods: a general model of endemic vs. exotic species


*Paulo A. V. Borges, Dep. de Ciências Agrárias, Universidade dos Açores, 9700-851 Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira, Azores, Portugal.


Aim  This paper has two objectives. First, we examine how a variety of biotic, abiotic and anthropogenic factors influence the endemic and introduced arthropod richness on an oceanic island. Second, we look at the relationship between the endemic and introduced arthropod richness, to ask whether areas with high levels of endemic species richness deter invasions.

Location  The work was carried out on a young volcanic island, Terceira, in the Azores.

Methods  We used standard techniques to collect data on arthropod species richness. Environmental data were obtained from the CIELO climatic model and using GIS. The explanatory value of environmental variables on a small-scale gradient of endemic and exotic arthropod species richness was examined with generalized linear models (GLMs). In addition, the impact of both endemic and exotic species richness in the communities was assessed by entering them after the environmental variable(s) to see if they contributed significantly to the final model (the hierarchical method).

Results  Abiotic (climatic and geomorphological) variables gave a better explanation of the variation in endemic species richness, whereas anthropogenic variables explained most of the variation in introduced species richness. Furthermore, after accounting for all environmental variables, part of the unexplained variance in the endemic species richness is explained by the introduced species richness and vice-versa. That is, areas with high levels of endemic species richness had many introduced species. There is evidence of a somewhat inverse spatial distribution between a group of oceanic-type, forest-dwelling, endemic, relict arthropods and a group of more generalist endemic arthropods that are able to survive in disturbed marginal sites particularly rich in non-indigenous species.

Main conclusions  Richness of endemic species is mainly driven by abiotic factors such as a climatic axis (oceanic-type localities with lower temperatures and summer precipitations) and a binary variable CALD (location of sites in caldeiras or ravines), whereas richness of introduced species depends on disturbance related factors. However, after factoring out these major influences, there is a correlation between endemic and introduced richness, suggesting that – independent of the environmental and geographical factors that affect the distribution of endemic or introduced species – the richest endemic assemblages are more prone to invasion, due probably to a facilitation process. Inconclusive evidence suggests that non-indigenous species are limited to those sites under anthropogenic influence located mainly near forest edges, but the rate of expansion of those species to high-altitude, core pristine sites has still to be tested.