Island Conservation Director of Conservation, Erin Hagen, speaks with WIRED about a recent UN report and the benefits of invasive species removal on islands.
Two reports published this month reveal the threats species around the world are facing. One report published by the Intergovernmental Science‑Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem of the United Nations revealed that one million species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction. Another identified a new species of bat—identical in appearance to another but with slightly different genetic traits, now with climate change, these differences could mean extinction versus survival.
Although the threat of the sixth mass extinction has loomed over us in recent years, these reports seemed to show the gravity of the situation and showed that human activity is the driver of this biodiversity loss.
The UN paper pointed to five leading causes of extinction which have all come about due to human activity. One of these causes is the introduction of invasive species. Whether through the pet trade or by means of accidental introductions, such as the spread of invasive rats around the world, virtually all ecosystems have been impacted by these damaging introductions.
Island ecosystems which are home to 41% of Endangered and Critically Endangered vertebrates in many cases have been hit the hardest by invasive species. Luckily, islands also present a unique circumstance where we can make a positive and lasting change for biodiversity conservation—we can remove invasive species.
Not only do native species recover almost overnight, but creating safe habitat also builds resilience so that as species face threats such as climate change, they have a fighting chance. Island Conservation Director of Conservation, Erin Hagen explains:
As populations continue to grow, there’s often more genetic variability that can develop and persist in those populations, which helps them adjust to any future scenarios, including different climate scenarios.”
Restoring islands does not just mean saving one species, it means providing a safe habitat to give species a chance to adapt and thrive to environmental changes as they occur.
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- Biosecurity—Protecting the Bay of Islands - July 19, 2019
- Overheard at National Geographic—The Zombie Mice Apocolypse - July 15, 2019
- Pribilof Islands, Alaska—the Search for One Invasive Rat is Over - July 3, 2019
- New Research: Eight Priority Islands for Restoration - July 2, 2019
- Seabirds — A Global Conservation Crisis - June 26, 2019
- Preventing 80 Extinctions on Islands by 2020 - June 24, 2019
- Preserving Biodiversity—Islands and Innovation - May 22, 2019
- WIRED Features Island Conservation on Hope in the Face of Extinction Crisis - May 20, 2019