Island biodiversity conservation needs palaeoecology


The discovery and colonization of islands by humans has invariably resulted in their widespread ecological transformation. The small and isolated populations of many island taxa, and their evolution in the absence of humans and their introduced taxa, mean that they are particularly vulnerable to human activities. Consequently, even the most degraded islands are a focus for restoration, eradication, and monitoring programmes to protect the remaining endemic and/or relict populations. Here, we build a framework that incorporates an assessment of the degree of change from multiple baseline reference periods using long-term ecological data. The use of multiple reference points may provide information on both the variability of natural systems and responses to successive waves of cultural transformation of island ecosystems, involving, for example, the alteration of fire and grazing regimes and the introduction of non-native species. We provide exemplification of how such approaches can provide valuable information for biodiversity conservation managers of island ecosystems.

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Figure 1: To encourage the use of palaeoecological datasets in conservation we ideally need freely available online datasets.
Figure 2: Conceptual diagram summarizing the main concepts discussed within the text and the suggested management actions.
Figure 3: Two palaeoecological examples from New Zealand showing different potential conservation practices.
Figure 4: Summary time-series from a sedimentary sequence from Tenerife (Canary Islands).


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We thank the participants of the Island Biology conference 2014 and 2016 for many animated discussions on this topic. S.N. was supported by the VISTA programme from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (Project number 6158). L.d.N. was supported by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 700952. J.M.F.P. and L.d.N. attendance to the Island Biology Conferences 2014 and 2016 was supported by the University of La Laguna through the “Campus Excelencia Atlántico Tricontinental ULL-ULPGC” and the “Ayudas a Proyectos Puente al Plan Estatal de I+D+I, Plan Propio de Investigación 2016”, respectively. C.A.F. was supported by the Climate Change Consortium of Wales. J.M.W. was supported by Core Funding for Crown Research Institutes, from the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Science and Innovation Group.

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S.N. lead the Perspective and wrote the paper together with all authors: L.d.N., C.F., J.M.W., E.J.d.B., E.E.D.C., R.J.W., J.M.F.P. and K.J.W. All authors contributed in the discussion.

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Correspondence to Sandra Nogué.

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Nogué, S., de Nascimento, L., Froyd, C. et al. Island biodiversity conservation needs palaeoecology. Nat Ecol Evol 1, 0181 (2017).

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