Islands are biodiversity hotspots, but also extinction epicenters. Fortunately, there is a way to protect these vibrant ecosystems.
Islands are home to a great diversity of rare and endemic species. With the advent of global travel, humans have spread around the world, ventured into these sensitive ecosystems, and in many cases, have introduced species that never could have arrived there on their own.
The introduction of invasive species to island ecosystems has become an alarming environmental crisis contributing to the rapidly rising global extinction rate. Although islands represent only 5.3% of the Earth’s landmass, these biodiversity hotspots are the loci of 75% of all recorded bird, amphibian, mammal, and reptile extinctions. Of these recorded extinctions, 86% have been linked to the presence of invasive species. Today, nearly half of Earth’s Critically Endangered and Endangered terrestrial vertebrates live on islands.
There is hope. Although many island species are at risk of extinction today, tools are available to address this crisis. On many islands around the world it is possible to completely remove invasive species such as rats, feral cats, and mice that prey on and outcompete native species. Restoration projects around the world have contributed to steady advances in scientific research and technology, and these improvements are promising for the protection of global biodiversity.
Since our founding in 1994, Island Conservation has successfully undertaken restoration activities on 60 islands worldwide, benefiting 1090 populations of 399 species and subspecies. As technology advances it is becoming even more clear that to prevent extinctions, we can and should focus on islands.
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- Earth Day Every Day—Six Bright Spots in Conservation - April 22, 2019
- 169 Islands that Offer Hope for Stemming the Extinction Crisis - March 26, 2019
- Press Release: Six Main Threats Drive Global Seabird Decline - March 18, 2019
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- Protecting Midway’s Seabirds - February 19, 2019