Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 329–342 | Cite as

Why tropical island endemics are acutely susceptible to global change

Original Paper


Tropical islands are species foundries, formed either as a by-product of volcanism, when previously submerged seabed is thrust upwards by tectonics, or when a peninsula is isolated by rising sea level. After colonisation, the geographical isolation and niche vacancies provide the competitive impetus for an evolutionary radiation of distinct species-island endemics. Yet the very attributes which promote speciation in evolutionary time also leave island endemics highly vulnerable to recent and rapid impacts by modern people. Indeed, the majority of documented human-driven extinctions have been exacted upon island endemics. The causes include over-exploitation, invasive species brought by people and destruction of island’s naturally constrained habitats. Imminent threats include inundation by rising sea levels and other adaptive pressures related to anthropogenic global warming. We review recent work which underscores the susceptibility of island endemics to the drivers of global change, and suggest a methodological framework under which, we argue, the science and mitigation of island extinctions can be most productively advanced.


Biodiversity Biogeography Climate change Deforestation Extinction Over-exploitation Habitat loss Invasive species Southeast Asia Synergistic human impacts 



We are grateful to E.J. Milner-Gulland, Benoit Goossens and Marc Ancrenaz for their help in developing the species specific conceptual models outlined in Appendix 1 and 2. Suggestions from two anonymous referees and the special issue editor helped improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Institute for Climate Change and Sustainability, School of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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