Patterns of endemic extinctions among island bird species

Authors

  • Eric Biber


E. Biber (eric.biber@aya.yale.edu), Yale School of Forestry and Environment Studies, 205 Prospect St., New Haven, CT 06511, USA.

Abstract

The relationship between island biogeography and the vulnerability of island biota to extinction as a result of human activities was examined. In particular, this study analyzed whether island area, maximum elevation of an island, isolation from the nearest continental landmass, or date of human colonization had statistically significant relationships with the proportion of endemic island bird species that have become endangered or extinct. The study examined islands or island groups with endemic bird species, and which have never been connected to a continental landmass. Both modern and fossil bird species were incorporated into the analysis. Islands that were colonized by humans earliest had the lowest proportion of modern species alone, and modern and fossil species combined, that have gone extinct. However, date of human arrival was not correlated with the proportion of modern species that are endangered. Maximum elevation of an island was negatively correlated with the proportion of modern species that are extinct, and was positively correlated with the proportion of modern species that are endangered. Area was negatively correlated with the proportion of modern species that are endangered. Isolation of islands was not significantly correlated with the proportion of modern species extinct or endangered, but was positively correlated with the proportion of modern and fossil species combined that have gone extinct. These results indicate that the initial spasm of island bird extinctions due to human contact may have, in part, passed. They also indicate that bird species on islands colonized earliest by humans may have had more time to adapt to the presence of man and his commensal species, resulting in reduced extinction rates.

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