Besides confirming that longstanding observation, the study signals an alarm for island populations in a rapidly warming world. It suggests that climate change may have devastating consequences for lizards and other animals that inhabit islands because their ecosystems are much more sensitive than those on the mainland to change.
Details of the study conducted by biologists at the University of California, San Diego will appear in a paper slated for publication in the June issue of the journal Ecology Letters, available online in May.
“We found that island populations are less resistant to biological invasions, which will likely increase dramatically with changing climate,” says Walter Jetz, an assistant professor of biological sciences at UCSD and a co-author of the study.
“Climate change will drive animals to move to new places,” says Lauren Buckley, a postdoctoral fellow at the Santa Fe Institute who is a visiting scholar at UCSD and the other co-author of the study. “Our research suggests that those animals that move to islands can strongly affect the sensitive animal communities on islands.”
In addition to their increased sensitivity to biological invasions, populations on islands are more vulnerable than those on the mainland to sea level rise and increased storm activity, which are expected by many scientists to become worse as a result of global warming.
Jetz and Buckley gathered 643 estimates of lizard abundance from around the world for their survey, the first extensive global study of island densities for any animal group. Analyzing these estimates, they determined that lizards were consistently more than ten times more abundant on islands than on the mainland.
Previous research conducted by Ted Case at UCSD and others on small groups of islands had found that islands’ limited areas and isolation can reduce predation and competition pressures. As a result, island animals were able to reach exceptionally high densities.
In their study, Jetz and Buckley confirmed that reduced numbers of predators and competitors accompany high lizard densities on islands across the world. The two biologists concluded that an average acre of mainland contains 52 lizards while an island acre contains 777 lizards. This difference in density persisted when the scientists controlled for location and environmental conditions.
“The ecology of islands is particularly important because, while the world’s more than 100,000 islands constitute only 7 percent of the global land surface, they contain many of the earth’s species with numerous species restricted to single islands,” says Buckley. “500 million people depend on island ecosystems for their food and livelihoods.”
The study suggests that islands are particularly sensitive to the loss and gain of species. Species introductions have had dramatic consequences for islands. Introduced mongooses have devastated island populations of lizards and introduced snakes have caused the loss of birds and lizards on islands.
“Cases of species introductions wreaking havoc on islands are likely to become more common as the islands face increasing pressures from population growth, tourism, development, and climate change,” says Jetz. “The consequences of island vulnerability have already been observed as island species account for half of known animal extinctions and a full 90 percent of known bird extinctions in the last 400 years. Our study suggests that islands will continue to be vulnerable worldwide.”
“Many people, myself included, enjoy visiting islands for their spectacular wildlife,” adds Buckley. “Our research suggests that we must be particularly careful to limit the movement of animals between islands if islands are to remain special places to visit.”
Kim McDonald | EurekAlert!
Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut
Species Richness – a false friend? Scientists want to improve biodiversity assessments
01.08.2017 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences