Island biodiversity - issues and opportunities
Summary of an event held at the World Conservation Congress 2008. /p>
Organised by: Dr. Justin Gerlach (Scientific Coordinator - Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles; islands focal point for IUCN Invertebrate Conservation Subcommittee; member of the Species Survival Commission)
Thematic stream: 3 - safeguarding the diversity of life
Islands are recognised as having exceptionally high numbers
of endemic species, with 15% of bird, reptile and plant species in only 3% of
the world’s land area. These include flagship species for conservation
such as the Seychelles and Galapagos giant tortoises and the Komodo dragon and
the species emblematic of extinction, the dodo. The conservation significance
of islands is highlighted by global analyses showing that 67% of the centres
of marine endemism and 70% coral reef hotspots are centred on islands, 47% of
Endemic Bird Areas, 25% of the terrestrial Global 200 Ecoregions, 30% of the
biodiversity hostpots and 40% of Alliance for Zero Extinction sites are islands.
Human populations are also significant, with some 500 million people on islands,
most dependant on local natural resources either directly, or indirectly though
tourism based economies. Island biodiversity has suffers a high degree of extinction
in the past and many threatened species are island endemics, principally due
to invasive species, climate change, natural and environmental disasters, land
degradation and marine pollution. Of these invasive species are currently considered
to be the main threat to island species although climate change is predicted
to be a major threat to islands in the future, with the projected complete loss
of some low-lying island nations. Islands are microcosms of the processes of
threat and extinction in larger ecosystems and may provide insights into effective
management approaches. They also offer an opportunity for practical conservation
as they are self-contained ecosystems that it should be possible to isolate
from many threat factors.
The 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity (COP8) in 2006 agreed a “Programme of Work for Island Biodiversity” to protect and manage the island natural resources that support people. The Working Plan aims to “Conserve the world’s unique island biodiversity, significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss and advance sustainable livelihoods on islands through a global island partnership that builds political, technical and financial support; rapidly shares skills, information and resources; and accelerates on-the-ground action.” Important strategies in this include facilitation of information sharing on priorities and establishing a mechanism for integration and collaboration advancing conservation priorities identified by islands.
This meeting would provide an overview of the current state of the biodiversity of islands, highlighting current threats and successful solutions. The aim of this is to assess the state of island ecosystems and to highlight good management approaches for preservation of functioning ecosystems, and how these can be developed out of international and local mechanisms and initiatives. The meeting will start with brief presentations on the issues facing island groups, climate change threats and initiatives, and opportunities for research and conservation. This will be followed by an audience discussion of the issues raised.
Dr. Justin Gerlach
Scientific Coordinator - Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles
Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles, PO Box 207, Victoria, Mahé, SEYCHELLES