Aim To explore the causal factors leading to a significant Small Island Effect (SIE), that is, the absence of the commonly found species–area relationships below an island size, on the terrestrial isopod communities from a large number of islands.
Location Ninety islands of the Aegean Sea (Greece).
Methods The detection of a significant SIE is assessed through the application of all three methods available in the literature. Species are divided into generalists and specialists. We tested if the minimum area and the area range of each species’ occurrences differ between generalists and specialists. Next, we searched for differences in the ratios of specialists to generalists above and below the SIE threshold, and tested their cumulative ratios when islands are arranged according to increasing area, altitude or habitat diversity in order to identify the threshold where they become statistically indistinguishable from the ratio of the total set of islands.
Results Our results indicate a strong effect of habitat availability on the SIE. Communities of islands within the SIE range, host a higher percentage of generalists. An analysis of the specific habitat requirements shows that, for isopods, the crucial factor is the lack of habitats related to inland waters from small islands.
Main conclusions The distribution of habitats on islands of different size is of major importance for the occurrence of a SIE. The relative representation of specialist and generalist species on islands of different size plays an important role in shaping SIE-related patterns. Conservation efforts should pay special attention on freshwater habitats, especially on small Aegean islands. Identifying the causal factors of SIE, combined with a thorough knowledge of the ecological requirements of species can offer insights into identifying habitat types and groups of species that are more vulnerable to alterations of the environment.
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