Chiarucci, A., Fattorini, S., Foggi, B., Landi, S., Lazzaro, L., Podani, J. & Simberloff, D. (2017) Plant recording across two centuries reveals dramatic changes in species diversity of a Mediterranean archipelago.Scientific Reports, 7(5415), 1-11. DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-05114-5 (IF2017 4,112; Q1 Multidisciplinary Sciences)
Although islands are model systems for investigating assembly of biological communities, long-term changes in archipelago communities are not well understood because of the lack of reliable data. By using a vast amount of floristic data we assembled a dataset of the plant species occurring on 16 islands of the Tuscan Archipelago, Italy, across two periods, 1830–1950 and 1951–2015. We collected 10,892 occurrence records for 1,831 species. We found major changes in the island plant assemblages between the two periods, with native flora significantly decreasing (−10.7%) and alien flora doubling (+132.1%) in richness. The species–area relationships demonstrated the scale-dependence of the observed changes for native and alien species. The observed floristic changes were dependent on island area, with smaller islands displaying high variability in richness and compositional changes and larger islands having more stable species assemblages. The richness of species associated with open landscapes, that had been maintained for centuries by traditional practices, markedly reduced while the number of woody species, associated with afforestation processes and invasion by alien woody plants, significantly incresed. These results demonstrate the great power of floristic studies, often available in grey literature, for understanding long-term biotic changes in insular ecosystems.