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Island conservation efforts could save over 9% of endangered species

According to a recent study published by the journal PLOS ONE, eradicating invasive mammals from islands could save over 9% of the world’s island vertebrates in danger of extinction. Eradicating invasive species, particularly cats and rats, is an effective conservation tool – “more than 1,200 invasive mammal eradications have been attempted on islands worldwide, with an average success rate of 85%” on native species recovery.

Invasive species are the second greatest cause of plant and animal species loss globally. Their impact on islands is particularly threatening, due to the highest concentration of both biodiversity and species extinctions in these regions. Although representing just over 5% of Earth’s territories, islands have been the habitat of approximately 75% of extinct species since 1500 (Tershy et al. 2015).

80% of the world's islands have invasibe rodents. 41% of all threatened terrestrial vertebrate live on islands. 86% of extinctions linked to invasive species occurred on islands. 76% of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians' extinctions happen on islands.

The authors present a framework to identify islands where eradication efforts could have higher impacts and slow down global extinction rates. They assessed conservation opportunities, technical feasibility criteria and the socio-political conditions of 1,279 islands. 169 of those could start eradication planning and implementation by 2020 or 2030. This “would improve the survival prospects of 9.4% of the Earth’s most highly threatened terrestrial insular vertebrates (111 of 1,184 species)”, scientists affirm.

Among the restoration opportunities identified by the study are Floreana Island in the Galápagos Archipelago (Ecuador), Gough Island in the Tristan da Cunha Archipelago (UK Overseas Territories) and Alejandro Selkirk Island in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago (Chile).

More information about the paper is available on Island Conservation’s Blog. The full study can be found here.

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