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Proc Biol Sci. 2003 May 22;270(1519):1091-8.

Rates of species introduction to a remote oceanic island.

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Biodiversity and Macroecology Group, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK.


The introduction of species to areas beyond the limits of their natural distributions has a major homogenizing influence, making previously distinct biotas more similar. The scale of introductions has frequently been commented on, but their rate and spatial pervasiveness have been less well quantified. Here, we report the findings of a detailed study of pterygote insect introductions to Gough Island, one of the most remote and supposedly pristine temperate oceanic islands, and estimate the rate at which introduced species have successfully established. Out of 99 species recorded from Gough Island, 71 are established introductions, the highest proportion documented for any Southern Ocean island. Estimating a total of approximately 233 landings on Gough Island since first human landfall, this equates to one successful establishment for every three to four landings. Generalizations drawn from other areas suggest that this may be only one-tenth of the number of pterygote species that have arrived at the island, implying that most landings may lead to the arrival of at least one alien. These rates of introduction of new species are estimated to be two to three orders of magnitude greater than background levels for Gough Island, an increase comparable to that estimated for global species extinctions (many of which occur on islands) as a consequence of human activities.

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