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Extinction-proneness of island species: Causes and management implications



Extinction-proneness of island species: Causes and management implications



Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 48(1): 1-9, 30 June



After three centuries of anthropogenic insults, island species and communities are in the forefront of the precipitous decline in biodiversity that we face in the new millenium. The sorry plight of island biotas is often seen as resulting from an inherent weakness of island species, manifested particularly by how poorly they have fared in response to the many continental species introduced to islands. In fact, particular continental populations and communities have been similarly devastated. However, their larger geographic ranges tend to immunize them against the global extinction suffered by island species, many of which are endemic. The problems for island species are more those of restricted range than of minimum viable population size. Neither are the solutions to this insular hecatomb to be found in generalized attempts to avoid small populations. Rather, management must be tailored to the idiosyncrasies of particular threatened species and communities. The two key actions that would improve the prospects for many island biotas would be a lessening of the rate of introduction of nonindigenous species and a decline in the rate of habitat conversion. Prospects for activities to stem the impact of invasions are improving, though still not good. There seems little reason for optimism about lessening island habitat destruction, but improvements can be made in excluding potentially harmful species introductions, eradicating introduced species that nevertheless establish populations, and enhancing the ranges of very restricted island species through transplantation. Crucial to these efforts is a sound understanding of the natural history of island species.

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