Fattorini, S. (2016) Insects and the city: what island biogeography tells us about insect conservation in urban areas. Web Ecology, 16, 41-45.
Habitat fragmentation caused by urbanization is considered a prominent threat to biodiversity. Urban development creates a mosaic of natural fragments which can be occupied by organisms able to survive in small spaces. These fragments are a set of habitat islands separated by less suitable non-native habitats. Because of their isolation, communities of urban green spaces can be investigated using hypotheses developed in island biogeography. The "equilibrium theory of island biogeography" (ETIB) allows the formulation of some predictions about how various characteristics of green spaces (such as their area, shape, level of isolation, environmental heterogeneity, age) should influence species richness. Many studies found support for ETIB predictions, but results varied considerably according to the species' sensitivity to patch size, matrix characteristics, and history of the city. In some cases ETIB predictions were falsified. These contrasting results warn against making generalizations on conservation strategies only based on ETIB models. On the other hand, the ETIB may represent a useful framework for urban conservation, especially for small animals like insects, if the roles of other factors, such as the surrounding landscape, the specific needs of the species under study, and the history of the urbanization process, are taken into account.