2017 was a profound year for island research and discoveries around the world.
By: Emily Heber
Hawaiian Seabird’s in Urgent Need of Protection
Two native Hawaiian seabird species, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red-listed Vulnerable Hawaiian Petrel and Endangered Newell’s Shearwater are experiencing steep decline according to a new research paper published in The Condor. The paper, titled “Declining population trends of Hawaiian Petrel and Newell’s Shearwater on the island of Kaua’i, Hawaii, USA” reveals that the native populations have declined by 78% and 94% respectively over the past 20 years. The causes identified by the researchers include power line collision, light pollution, invasive species, and diseases.
Efforts to control invasive species populations have been undertaken to benefit the Hawaiian Petrel and Newell’s Shearwater. However, significant threats still exist. Not only is conservation crucial for the survival of these species, but it is also critical for the health of Hawai’i’s ecosystems. Although the decline is a reason for alarm, conservationists are hopeful that continued efforts to protect these endangered species from invasive predators will ultimately be fruitful and save the rare seabirds.
Hawaiian Hoary Bat Discovered on Kaho’olawe Island
Recently, during a restoration effort by Island Conservation and our partners, an exciting discovery was made on Kaho’olawe Island, Hawai’i. After two decades of speculation, researchers have found that the endemic, Endangered Hoary Bat, also known as ‘ope’ape’a, is present on the island. The Hoary Bat is Hawai’i’s only native land mammal. Hoary bats were once found throughout the Hawaiian Islands and can still be found on The Big Island, Maui, and Kaua’i. Now, researchers have confirmed suspicions that the species can be found on Kaho’olawe Island. Confirmation of the species on the island offers hope that conservation efforts could help recover the Endangered species not only on Kaho’olawe but also on neighboring islands.
To Save Species from Extinction, Focus on Islands
New research published in the journal Science Advances this year found that nearly half the Earth’s highly threatened vertebrate extinctions occur on islands. However, effective management of invasive species, a primary driver of extinctions on islands, could benefit 95 percent of the 1,189 threatened island species identified in the research survey. Islands represent merely 5.3 percent of the world’s land area, yet have hosted 61 percent of all recorded extinctions since 1500. The majority of these extinctions were driven by invasive species, particularly rodents and feral cats, which are responsible at least in part for 44 percent of bird, mammal, and reptile extinctions in recent centuries. By focusing on protecting native species on islands, conservationists can save species from extinction.
Re-vegetation of San Nicolas Island
San Nicolas Island, the most remote of the California Channel Islands, is in recovery after invasive feral cats were removed in 2010. The San Nicolas Channel Island Fox, the Island Night Lizard, and other native plants and animals are now rebounding. The island, now free of invasive feral cats, has once again begun to flourish and is showing signs of revival that researchers did not expect.
The newest species to land on the discovery list is Seaside Cistanthe (Cistanthe maritima) which grows along the coast of Southern California and some of the Channel Islands. Seaside Cistanthe is one of three flowering plants that have been newly discovered on San Nicolas Island in the past two years. These discoveries are also considered to be indicative of the type of vegetation once found along the Southern California mainland and could inform conservation both on and offshore.
Featured Photo: Aerial View of Kaho’olawe. Credit: Olivier Langrand/Island Conservation
- Preserving Biodiversity—Islands and Innovation - May 22, 2019
- WIRED Features Island Conservation on Hope in the Face of Extinction Crisis - May 20, 2019
- Social Attraction—Bringing Seabirds Back to Desecheo Island - April 30, 2019
- United Nations—Protecting the High Seas and Seabirds - April 10, 2019
- BBC’s The Newsroom: Restore These 169 Islands to Curb the Extinction Crisis - April 8, 2019
- Invasive Rats—A Growing Threat to Sea Turtles - March 27, 2019
- Calling All Innovators—Islands Need Your Help! - March 14, 2019
- Conservation Challenges of the Higo Chumbo Cactus - March 1, 2019
- Protecting Our World’s Oldest Wild Bird - February 21, 2019
- Partnership and Conservation on Tetiaroa Atoll - February 6, 2019