Area, isolation and climate explain the diversity of mammals on islands worldwide

Barreto et al. (2021) – Proceedings B

Insular biodiversity is expected to be regulated differently than continental biota, but their determinants remain to be quantified at a global scale. We evaluated the importance of physical, environmental, and historical factors on mammal richness and endemism across 5592 islands worldwide. We fitted generalized linear and mixed models to accommodate variation among biogeographic realms and performed analyses separately for bats and non-volants. Richness on islands ranged from one to 234 species, with up to 177 single island endemics. Diversity patterns were most consistently influenced by the islands’ physical characteristics. Area positively affected mammal diversity, in particular the number of non-volant endemics. Island isolation, both current and past, was associated with lower richness but greater endemism. Flight capacity modified the relative importance of past versus current isolation, with bats responding more strongly to current and non-volant mammals to past isolation. Biodiversity relationships with environmental factors were idiosyncratic, with a tendency for greater effects sizes with endemism than richness. The historical climatic change was positively associated with endemism. In line with theory, we found that area and isolation were among the strongest drivers of mammalian biodiversity. Our results support the importance of past conditions on current patterns, particularly of non-volant species.