Opportunities For Research

Overall, we believe that islands can contribute to the analysis of biological diversity and ecosystcm function, and that wc could make better use of what they have to offer. Four important lines of approach are outlined below.

1. Make use of the striking natural gradients in diversity, in which diversity varies substantially and dircctionally under reasonably constant climatic and other environmental conditions, as a consequence of the remoteness or size of oceanic islands. Wc should set up long-term measurement plots in which the interactions between diversity and ecosystem function could be evaluated near equilibrium (if indeed those conditions occur), through normal environmental fluctuations and directional change, and following catastrophic disturbance. This effort would be particularly important as components of global environmental change interact to affect inland biotas (Loope 1995).

2. Make a sustained effort to read the record of possible changcs in ecosystem function resulting from past extinctions on islands.

3. Use island ecosystems in experiments designed to manipulate diversity directly. It is only through such experiments that we will get unambiguous answers concerning diversity and ecosystem function, and such experiments can and should be done on continents as well as on islands. However, the simplicity of island systems means that experiments may be done more quickly and cleanly there (Ewel and Hogberg 1995).

4. Use the unique landscape-level features of island - their well-defined geographical limits, their relatively well-characterized patterns of ecosystcm-level variation - to evaluate interactions between ecosystem-and landscape-level diversity and ecosystem function.

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