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Am Nat. 2002 Dec;160(6):766-83. doi: 10.1086/343877.

Species invasions exceed extinctions on islands worldwide: a comparative study of plants and birds.

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Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA.


Species richness is decreasing at a global scale. At subglobal scales, that is, within any defined area less extensive than the globe, species richness will increase when the number of nonnative species becoming naturalized is greater than the number of native species becoming extinct. Determining whether this has occurred is usually difficult because detailed records of species extinctions and naturalizations are rare; these records often exist, however, for oceanic islands. Here we show that species richness on oceanic islands has remained relatively unchanged for land birds, with the number of naturalizations being roughly equal to the number of extinctions, and has increased dramatically for vascular plants, with the number of naturalizations greatly exceeding the number of extinctions. In fact, for plants, the net number of species on islands has approximately doubled. We show further that these patterns are robust to differences in the history of human occupation of these islands and to the possibility of undocumented species extinctions. These results suggest that species richness may be increasing at subglobal scales for many groups and that future research should address what consequences this may have on ecological processes.


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