Climate change threatens pest-free island havens

by Jan Ligthart

AUCKLAND26 February 2014 - More than 600 islands worldwide have become havens for rare species after extensive programs to eradicate all invasive species. But according to a new study at least a lot of these islands will be inundated if the sea level would rise by one meter. And it is not only the sea that threatens these sanctuaries: more and bigger cyclones and greater tidal ranges as well as the overall changing climatic conditions put those low lying islands in danger as well.

The study, published in the international journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution, says thousands of islands are threatened by climate change. At least 26 islands would disappear underneath the waves it the sea level rises by 1m, up to no kless than 20.000 islands if those levels rise 2.3 metres. 

Because of the impending climate change, the focus with conservation programmes needs to shift to larger islands, says study co-author Dr James Russell, of the University of Auckland's School of Biological Sciences. In a New Zealand Herald interview he paints a gloomy picture: "It may be that eventually we will be faced with some tough decisions about whether we move species in order to save them or whether we do nothing and let them go extinct."