Center for Computational and Theoretical Biology

Island Biogeography


Island biogeography is a well-stablished field in Ecology dealing with biodiversity dynamics on islands. Seminal works of McArthur and Wilson led to the development the Equilibrium Theory of Island Biogeography (ETIB). This classical theory states that a dynamic equilibrium in species richness is achieved between opposing forces of immigration and extinction processes, where immigration is affected by isolation and exinction by area. The ETIB became one of the most influencial theories in ecology, spawning offshoot fields like landscape ecology, meta-populations and meta-communities, which further provided the theoretical backbone for conservation ecology by integrating edge effects, fragment size and connectivity into the conservation studies. In the last decade, island biogeography gained a new momentum thanks to the development of the General Dynamic Model of Island Biogeography (GDM), led by Robert J. Whittaker and colleagues. In this new theoretical framework, environmental dynamics is explicitly included to account for geomorphological changes on islands over evolutionary temporal scales. The species richness emerges from the interplay between immigration, extinction and speciation, whose influence vary over the island's "life-span", showing a bell shape over time. However, the theoretical consequence of several other mechanisms and drivers influencing island biodiversity remain unexplored, including archipelagic dynamics, rescue effects, target effects, taxon cycle, island hopping and so on. 

In our working group, we thus explore how we can describe biodiversity dynamics on islands based on eco-evolutionary processes at the individual and population levels. We further aim to generalize findings to island-like systems, such as sky islands (isolated mountains in continents).


Current subprojects are:

 1) Eco-evolutionary dynamics on oceanic islands: an individual-, niche-based approach. Performed by former PhD student Ludwig Leidinger and master student Daniel Vedder.

 2) Using East African Zosterops to understand speciation and eco‐evolutionary dynamics in rapidly changing environment. Performed by visiting postdoc Dr. Jan Engler and master student Daniel Vedder.

People in this project


2021[ to top ]
  • Propagule pressure and an invasion syndrome determine invasion success in a plant community model. Vedder, Daniel; Leidinger, Ludwig; Sarmento Cabral, Juliano. In Ecology and Evolution, 11, bll 17106–17116. 2021.
2020[ to top ]
  • The effect of species extinctions on island biogeographic patterns. Matthews, Tom; Leidinger, Ludwig; Cabral, Juliano. In Ecological Research, 35, bll 372–381. 2020.
2019[ to top ]
  • Interactions between ecological, evolutionary, and environmental processes unveil complex dynamics of insular plant diversity. Cabral, J.S.; Wiegand, K.; Kreft, H. In Journal of Biogeography, 46, bll 1582–1597. 2019.
  • Assessing predicted isolation effects from the general dynamic model of island biogeography with an eco-evolutionary model for plants. Cabral, J.S.; Whittaker, R.J.; Wiegand, K.; Kreft, H. In Journal of Biogeography, 46, bll 1569–1581. 2019.
2018[ to top ]
  • Spatial scaling of extinction rates: theory and data reveal non-linearity, and a major upscaling and downscaling challenge. Keil, P.; Pereira, H.M.; Cabral, J.S.; Chase, J.; May, F.; Martins, I.S.; Winter, M. In Global Ecology and Biogeography, 27, bll 2–13. 2018.
2017[ to top ]
  • Oceanic island biogeography through the lens of the general dynamic model: assessment and prospect. Borregaard, Michael K.; Amorim, Isabel R.; Borges, Paulo A. V.; Cabral, Juliano S.; Fernández-Palacios, José M.; Field, Richard; Heaney, Lawrence R.; Kreft, Holger; Matthews, Thomas J.; Olesen, Jens M.; Price, Jonathan; Rigal, Francois; Steinbauer, Manuel J.; Triantis, Konstantinos A.; Valente, Luis; Weigelt, Patrick; Whittaker, Robert J. In Biological Reviews, 92, bll 830–853. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2017.
  • Interactions between ecological, evolutionary, and environmental processes unveil complex dynamics of island biodiversity. Cabral, J.S.; Wiegand, K.; Kreft, H. In bioRxiv, (099978). 2017.
  • Effects of time and isolation on plant diversity: testing island biogeography theory with an eco-evolutionary model. Cabral, J.S.; Whittaker, R.J.; Wiegand, K.; Kreft, H. In bioRxiv, (100289). 2017.
  • Biodiversity dynamics on islands: explicitly accounting for causality in mechanistic models. Leidinger, Ludwig; Cabral, Juliano Sarmento. In Diversity, 9(30). 2017.
2016[ to top ]
  • Late Quaternary climate change shapes island biodiversity. Weigelt, Patrick; Steinbauer, Manuel Jonas; Cabral, Juliano Sarmento; Kreft, Holger. In Nature, 532(7597), bll 99–102. Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. All Rights Reserved., 2016.
2014[ to top ]
  • Biogeographic, climatic and spatial drivers differentially affect α-, β- and γ-diversities on oceanic archipelagos. Cabral, Juliano Sarmento; Weigelt, Patrick; Kissling, W. Daniel; Kreft, Holger. In Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 281(1784). 2014.