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Dispersal and establishment: spatial patterns and species–area relationships


Correspondence: Thomas Hovestadt, Fabrikschleichach Field Station, University of Würzburg, Glashüttenstraße 5, 96181 Rauhenebrach, Germany. Tel.: + 49-9554-92230, Fax: + 49-9554-367, E-mail: and


According to the equilibrium theory of island biogeography, high colonization ability of species is associated with low exponents (z) of the species–area relationship (SAR) and weak spatial patterns in species number and dissimilarity. However, the relationship between z and the strength of these spatial patterns has not been investigated systematically. We used a multispecies metapopulation model to investigate these relationships in an archipelago of islands. We conclude that this relationship can only be predicted if either the dispersal ability or the power of establishment of species is known. With species richness limited by establishment, we generated high z-values associated with weak spatial patterns in species number and dissimilarity. If species richness was constrained by the dispersal ability of species, we observed low to medium z-values but strong spatial patterns. If the dispersal ability and the abilities of species to establish were both high, z-values and spatial pattern tend to be low and species numbers were limited by the size of the regional species pool.