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Calling for a New Strategy to Measure Environmental (Habitat) Diversity in Island Biogeography: A Case Study of Mediterranean Tenebrionids (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae)

FATTORINI, Simone, DAPPORTO, Leonardo, STRONA, Giovanni, BORGES, Paulo A. V.
Fragmenta entomologica 2015 v.47 no.1
Tenebrionidae, biogeography, biotopes, case studies, homogenization, islands, land cover, models, species richness, Sicily
Many recent researches in island biogeography attempted to disentangle the effects of area per se and “habitat diversity” on species richness. However, the expression “habitat diversity” in this context should be avoided, because habitats can be only recognized by referring to the resources needed by a particular species. What is really measured in such researches is some form of “environmental heterogeneity”. Although habitat heterogeneity can be measured in various ways, most researches in island biogeography simply used the number of biotopes (typically classified as land cover categories). However, not all biotopes have the same surface. On the basis of the area occupied by each land cover category, it is possible to calculate indices of environmental diversity, evenness and dominance, as commonly done in community ecology research. These indices can be used to investigate the role of environmental diversity in determining species richness. We used the tenebrionid beetles inhabiting twenty-five small islands around Sicily (Central Mediterranean) to illustrate these concepts. We found that both area per se and environmental heterogeneity contributed to determine species richness. Moreover, we found that the relationship between species richness and environmental homogeneity followed a power function model. This indicates that environmental homogenization may determine a rapid, non linear decline in species richness.