Native plant species richness on Eastern Polynesias remote atolls: Which abiotic factors influence its spatial pattern?

Abstract : Which abiotic factors influence the number of native plant species on remote atolls is an important question to understand better the spatial pattern of the species observed on these low and vulnerable coral islands. However, this issue is still very poorly documented, often due to human degradation, partial botanical surveys or the difficult geographic access of remote atolls for researchers. The remote atolls of Eastern Polynesia, which are among the most isolated in the world, are of great interest for studies of native species’ distribution due to their isolation, low human density and urbanisation. In this study, we selected 49 remote atolls of Eastern Polynesia with complete botanical surveys to test the relative influence of eight abiotic factors on native plant species richness (i.e. indigenous and endemic species). Abiotic factors used as potential predictors included atoll area (km2), shoreline length (km), atoll elevation (m) and index of isolation (UNEP), but also the coastal index of the atoll (Ic ), the distance to the nearest similar atoll (km), the distance to the nearest large volcanic island ≥ 1000 km2 (here, Tahiti as a potential stepping-stone island) and the distance to the nearest raised atoll ≥ 15 m a.s.l. (here, Makatea or Henderson as a potential refugium during sea-level highstands). Spearman’s rank correlation, linear regression analysis and frequency diagrams were used to assess the relative influence of these factors on native species richness. No relationship was found between the species richness and the index of isolation or the distance to the nearest similar atoll. Atoll area and distance to the nearest raised atoll of Makatea explained 47.1% and 40%, respectively, of the native species richness variation observed on the remote atolls. The distance to the volcanic island of Tahiti and the coastal index explained 36.9% and 27.3% of the variation, while elevation and shoreline length explained 23.3% and 18.4% of the variation, respectively. Native species richness on the atolls surveyed increased with the increasing atoll area, elevation and shoreline length, but decreased with the increasing distance to the nearest raised atoll of Makatea and the large volcanic island of Tahiti. This supports the view that the spatial pattern of native species richness observed on the remote atolls was strongly influenced by (i) atoll area but also by (ii) the distance to the raised atoll of Makatea, and (iii) the distance to the volcanic island of Tahiti. This finding suggests that the raised atoll may be viewed as a refugium during sea-level highstands while the large volcanic island played the role of stepping-stone island, both islands influencing the dispersal of native species on remote atolls and attenuating the isolation effect in the study area.
Type de document :
Article dans une revue
Progress in Physical Geography, SAGE Publications, 2015, pp.1-23. 〈10.1177/0309133315615804〉
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Soumis le : vendredi 22 janvier 2016 - 15:47:13
Dernière modification le : vendredi 29 janvier 2016 - 10:05:58

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Sébastien Larrue, J.-F. Butaud, P. Dumas, S. Ballet. Native plant species richness on Eastern Polynesias remote atolls: Which abiotic factors influence its spatial pattern?. Progress in Physical Geography, SAGE Publications, 2015, pp.1-23. 〈10.1177/0309133315615804〉. 〈hal-01260842〉

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