Island biogeography

BIOMAC participants: Kenneth Rijsdijk (PI), Daniel Kissling, Harry Seijmonsbergen, Sietze Norder (PhD)

With our research on island biogeography we study the spatial patterns in the distribution, richness and dispersion of terrestrial species on islands. We especially investigate small islands (<3000 km2) because they are isolated study systems with relative simple ecosystems and a known geological history.

The 600.000 year old volcanic island of São Jorge (Azores) formed on top of a transform fault being part of the mid-Atlantic Ridge (photo by K.F. Rijsdijk).


Spatiotemporal dynamics

We quantify the spatiotemporal dynamics of island environments at different temporal scales: deep evolutionary time scales (10-0.1 Ma) as the result of endogenic processes; intermediate ecological time scales (100-10 ka) as a result of climatic and sea level changes; and human time scales (10-0.1 ka) as a result of human influences on insular ecosystems. We use historical, geological and geophysical reconstructions to model and quantify insular environmental change.

Area change of volcanic islands of the Canaries over the last 120.000 years (Rijsdijk et al. 2014).


Key research questions are:

  • How do rates of natural environmental change on islands compare to rates of environmental change induced by humans, and can insular ecosystems keep up with the ongoing changes?

  • What is the role of environmental change on structuring species richness patterns on islands and how do rates of change influence evolutionary patterns and speciation rates of insular endemic species?

Currently, we mainly study how sea-level change has affected endemic species richness patterns in (sub)tropical volcanic islands globally and of continental islands in the Mediterranean. We also have a special focus in Macaronesia and the Mascarenes.

Please also see our other research themes.