The Influence of Island Area on Ecosystem Properties

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Science  29 Aug 1997:
Vol. 277, Issue 5330, pp. 1296-1299
DOI: 10.1126/science.277.5330.1296

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Island area is frequently a major determinant of the species composition of biological communities; community structure, in turn, often has important effects on ecosystem-level properties. Fifty islands of varying area were selected in an archipelago in the northern Swedish boreal forest zone, in which larger islands burn more frequently than smaller ones through wildfire arising from lightning strike, thus inducing a significant relationship between island area and plant species composition. This relationship was found to be a major factor in determining several ecosystem-level properties of these islands, including standing biomass, plant litter decomposition, nitrogen mineralization, terrestrial carbon partitioning, humus accumulation, and plant nitrogen acquisition.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: wardled{at}

  • Present address: Landcare Research, Post Office Box 69, Lincoln 8152, New Zealand.

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