Abstract

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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Acknowledgements

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.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Geography and Environment, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK.

    • Sandra Nogué
  2. Oxford Long-Term Ecology Laboratory, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK.

    • Sandra Nogué
    •  & Kathy J. Willis
  3. Island Ecology and Biogeography Group, Instituto Universitario de Enfermedades Tropicales y Salud Pública de Canarias (IUETSPC), Universidad de La Laguna (ULL), La Laguna 38200, Canary Islands, Spain.

    • Lea de Nascimento
    •  & José María Fernández-Palacios
  4. Long-term Ecology Laboratory, Landcare Research, Lincoln 7640, New Zealand.

    • Lea de Nascimento
    •  & Janet M. Wilmshurst
  5. Department of Biosciences, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK.

    • Cynthia A. Froyd
  6. School of Environment, The University of Auckland, Auckland 1142, New Zealand.

    • Janet M. Wilmshurst
  7. Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, Sciencepark 904, 1098 XH, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

    • Erik J. de Boer
  8. Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Asheville, One University Heights Asheville, North Carolina 28804, USA.

    • Emily E. D. Coffey
  9. School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK.

    • Robert J. Whittaker
  10. Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, 2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark.

    • Robert J. Whittaker
  11. Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AE, UK.

    • Kathy J. Willis

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Contributions

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.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sandra Nogué.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0181

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