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Efforts to save island wildlife from extinction get a boost from new database

10 / 01 / 2018, Mongabaycom News

Though the approximately 465,000 islands on planet Earth represent just over five percent of total global land area, they are disproportionately rich in threatened biodiversity — and researchers have now identified which are the most important to protect from invasive species, a major driver of species extinction on islands. A 2015 study found that 61 percent of all species extinctions recorded since 1500 and 37 percent of all species currently listed as critically endangered are confined to islands. Invasive species are one of the largest threats to terrestrial species that call islands home, in addition to habitat loss, but the study’s authors note that “Proven management actions can reduce these threats, benefiting both local peoples and species diversity on islands.” In order to aid in the planning of the types of conservation efforts that can help prevent further island-based extinctions, a team of researchers led by Dena Spatz, a conservation biologist at Santa Cruz, California-based NGO Island Conservation, identified which islands around the world harbor both threatened terrestrial vertebrates and invasive species like rodents or cats (Spatz began the project while a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz). The researchers have compiled their findings in an interactive distribution map called the Threatened Island Biodiversity Database. “The opportunities to prevent extinctions are now laid out right in front of us,” Spatz said in a statement. “This knowledge base of threatened island biodiversity can really empower more efficient and better-informed conservation planning efforts, which is exactly what our planet needs…

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