Aims To investigate the relative explanatory power of source faunas and geographical variables for butterfly incidence, frequency, richness, rarity, and endemicity on offshore islands.
Location The western Italian offshore islands (Italy and Malta).
Methods Thirty-one islands were examined. Data were taken from our own field surveys and from the literature. Two approaches were undertaken, described as island-focused and species-focused, respectively. Offshore islands were allocated to their neighbouring source landmasses (Italian Peninsula, Sicily and Sardinia–Corsica) and compared with each other for faunal attributes, source and island geography. Generalized linear and stepwise multiple regression models were then used to determine the relationships of island species richness, rarity and endemicity with potential geographical predictors and source richness, rarity, and endemicity (island-focused). Species frequency and incidence were assessed in relation to geographical and source predictors using stepwise linear and logistic regression, and inter-island associations were examined using K-Means clustering and non-metric scaling (species-focused).
Results The analysis reveals firm evidence for the influence of the nearest large landmass sources on island species assemblages, richness, rarity and endemicity. A clear distinction in faunal affinities occurs between the Sardinian islands and islands lying offshore from the Italian mainland and Sicily. Islands neighbouring these three distinct sources differ significantly in richness, rarity and endemicity. Source richness, rarity, and endemicity have explanatory power for island richness, rarity, and endemicity, respectively, and together with island geography account for a substantial part of the variation in island faunas (richness 59%, rarity 60% and endemicity 64%). Source dominates the logistic regression parameters predicting the incidence of island species [13 (38%) of 34 species that could be analysed]; three ecological factors (source frequency, flight period and maximal altitude at which species live) explained 75% of the variation in the occurrence of species on the islands. Species found more frequently on islands occurred more frequently at sources, had longer flight periods, and occurred at lower altitudes at the sources. The incidence of most species on islands (84%) is correctly predicted by the same three variables.
Main conclusions The Italian region of the Mediterranean Sea has a rich butterfly fauna comprising endemics and rare species as well as more cosmopolitan species. Analysis of island records benefited from the use of two distinct approaches, namely island-focused and species-focused, that sift distinct elements in island and source faunas. Clear contemporary signals appear in island–source relationships as well as historical signals. Differences among faunas relating to sources within the same region caution against assuming that contemporary (ecological) and historical (evolutionary) influences affect faunas of islands in different parts of the same region to the same extent. The implications of source–island relationships for the conservation of butterflies within the Italian region are considered, particularly for the long-term persistence of species.