Exploring Island Biogeography through Data
In this activity, students analyze scientific figures to understand principles of island biogeography theory that determine the number of species in an isolated habitat.
This activity uses a jigsaw approach to explore the processes that determine the equilibrium number of species in a habitat and how they are affected by both area and isolation. Two “Student Handouts” are provided as options for the activity. The “Analyzing Graphical Data” handout engages students in graph interpretation and sensemaking from data. The “Building the Equilibrium Model” handout facilitates a scaffolded investigation of the dynamic equilibrium model of island biogeography; students construct immigration and extinction curves to demonstrate the effects of area and isolation on the equilibrium number of species.
The “Educator Materials” document includes background information and implementation suggestions. The “Figures” ZIP file contains the scientific figures featured in this activity, along with “Figure Profile” documents that provide details on the studies.
Student Learning Targets
- Interpret results from scientific studies that explore island biogeography in different types of isolated habitats.
- Analyze graphs to identify relationships between the equilibrium number of species in a habitat and the habitat’s area and isolation.
- Synthesize evidence from data, including graphs, and use scientific reasoning to infer how area and isolation impact immigration and extinction.
- Construct an explanation of how area and isolation determine the equilibrium number of species in a habitat through the effects of immigration and extinction.
distance effect, equilibrium, extinction, habitat fragmentation, immigration, isolation, logarithmic scale, scatterplot, species-area relationship, trendline
Gonzalez, Andrew, and Enrique J. Chaneton. “Heterotroph species extinction, abundance and biomass dynamics in an experimentally fragmented microecosystem.” Journal of Animal Ecology 71, 4 (2002): 594–602. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2656.2002.00625.x.
Newmark, William D. “Extinction of mammal populations in western North American national parks.” Conservation Biology 9, 3 (1995): 512–526. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1523-1739.1995.09030512.x.
Sanchez, Brian C., and Robert R. Parmenter. “Patterns of shrub-dwelling arthropod diversity across a desert shrubland-grassland ecotone: a test of island biogeographic theory.” Journal of Arid Environments 50, 2 (2002): 247–265. https://doi.org/10.1006/jare.2001.0920.
Stracey, Christine M., and Stuart L. Pimm. “Testing island biogeography theory with visitation rates of birds to British islands.” Journal of Biogeography 36, 8 (2009): 1532–1539. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2699.2009.02090.x.
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HS-LS2-2, HS-LS2-6, HS-LS2-7
4.1, C.1, C.2, C.3, C.4
Topic(s): 2.1, 2.3, 9.10
2.1, 2.2, 3.3, 3.4