Islands are unique systems. Despite their restricted global landmass they hold a disproportionately high number of endemic plant species. At the same time, island biotas are facing enormous pressures from biological invasions, habitat loss and rising sea levels. More than ever before, there is a need to understand the key processes underpinning the assembly and evolution of island floras worldwide. Islands are also ideal study systems because they are comparatively small, have distinct boundaries, and exhibit striking examples of evolutionary diversification. Consequently, island research has made important contributions to our understanding of ecological and evolutionary patterns and processes.
The Equilibrium Theory of Island Biogeography, arguably the most influential ecological model, considers islands as static entities and species as ecologically equivalent. This view neglects important notions of contemporary ecology and biogeography: i) that islands are indeed highly dynamic systems and ii) that differences in species functional traits are key to advance our understanding of the assembly and evolution of species communities.
Subproject 8 of the research unit DynaCom aims at developing a quantitative functional island biogeography of plants. Trait composition and functional diversity of vascular island floras will be investigated at different spatial-temporal scale from the globe and at the regional and community scale of the East Frisian Islands. We take a macroecological approach and aim at relating functional diversity and composition of plant assemblage to different island characteristics to infer the process acting at each spatial scale.