A system dynamics model of island biogeography

Jianguo Wu, John L. Vankat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The MacArthur-Wilson equilibrium theory of island biogeography has been one of the more influential concepts in modern biogeography and ecology. In this paper, we synthesize the theory and examine effects of different immigration/extinction rate-species diversity curves on original predictions from the theory by using the System Dynamics simulation modeling approach. Moreover, we develop a comprehensive and generic System Dynamics model to incorporate a variety of recent modifications and extensions of the theory, including area effect, distance effect, competition effect, habitat diversity effect, target effect, and rescue effect. Through computer simulation with STELLA, a more profound understanding of the theory of island biogeography can be gained. The System Dynamics modeling approach is especially appropriate for such a study because it maximizes the utilization of the ecological data by incorporating qualitative information so that a complex, imprecisely-defined ecological system can be studied quantitatively, effectively, and comprehensively. Our simulation results show that different monotonic rate-species diversity curves do not affect the essence of the theory of island biogeography, while the magnitude of equilibrium species diversity may be greatly affected. Non-monotonic rate-species diversity curves may result in potential multiple equilibria of species diversity. In addition, our model suggests that a non-monotonic relationship may exist between the equilibrium turnover rate and island area and between the equilibrium turnover rate and distance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)911-940
Number of pages30
JournalBulletin of mathematical biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • General Mathematics
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Environmental Science
  • Pharmacology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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