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WIRED Features Island Conservation on Hope in the Face of Extinction Crisis

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.

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Chanaral Island in bloom after the removal of invasive rabbits. Credit: Maria Jose Vilches/Island Conservation

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.

Read the WIRED article here.
Featured photo: Polynesian Ground-dove. Credit: Island Conservation

About Emily Heber

Emily is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Zoology. As a student, she discovered that she had a passion for the conservation of endangered species and their ecosystems. Her background in informal education has allowed her the opportunity to share her passion for animals with others, something she seeks to continue doing while working with the communication team. In her spare time, Emily enjoys exploring the amazing hiking trails found in Santa Cruz and tries to SCUBA dive whenever possible. Emily is excited to join the Island Conservation team and to help share the amazing work that is being done here.

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