Conservation of oceanic island floras: present and future global challenges

Juli Caujape-Castells, Alan Tye, b , Daniel J. Crawford, Arnoldo Santos-Guerra, Ann Sakai, Katy Beaver, Wolfram Lobin, F.B. Vincent Florens, Monica Moura, Roberto Jardim, Isildo Gomes, Christoph Kueffer.
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Current threats to the planet’s biodiversity are unprecedented, and they particularly imperil insular floras. In this investigation, we use the threat factors identified by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment as the main drivers of biodiversity loss on islands to define and rank 13 current, continuing threats to the plant diversity of nine focal archipelagos where volcanic origin (or in the Seychelles a prolonged isolation after a continental origin) has produced a high degree of endemicity and fragility in the face of habitat alteration. We also conduct a global endangerment assessment based on the numbers of insular endemic plants in the endangered (EN) and critically endangered (CR) IUCN categories for 53 island groups with an estimated 9951 endemic plant species, providing a representative sample of the world’s insular systems and their floristic richness. Our analyses indicate that isolation does not significantly influence endangerment, but plant endemics from very small islands are more often critically endangered. We estimate that between 3500 and 6800 of the estimated 70,000 insular endemic plant species worldwide might be highly threatened (CR+EN) and between ca. 2000 and 2800 of them in critical danger of extinction (CR). Based on these analyses, and on a worldwide literature review of the biological threat factors considered, we identify challenging questions for conservation research, asking (i) what are the most urgent priorities for the conservation of insular species and floras, and (ii) with the knowledge and assets available, how can we improve the impact of conservation science and practice on the preservation of island biodiversity? Our analysis indicates that the synergistic action of many threat factors can induce major ecological disturbances, leading to multiple extinctions. We review weaknesses and strengths in conservation research and management in the nine focal archipelagos, and highlight the urgent need for conservation scientists to share knowledge and expertise, identify and discuss common challenges, and formulate multidisciplinary conservation objectives for insular plant endemics worldwide. To our knowledge, this is the most up-to-date and comprehensive survey yet to review the threat factors to native plants on oceanic islands and define priority research questions.
( Caujapé-Castells. et al, 2010)