Relative risk of extinction of passerine birds on continents and islands


Journal Article

Greater numbers and higher proportions of recent species extinctions have been on islands rather than on continents. In contrast, predictions of massive future extinctions stem from the current clearing of continental, tropical forests. For instance, since 1600, 97 out of 108 bird extinctions have been on islands. However, 452 of the total 1,111 species currently considered to be threatened are continental. Island flora and fauna are uniquely vulnerable to the human introduction of previously absent predators, diseases and other menaces, whereas species on continents are not so ecologically naive. So could predictions of future continental extinctions based on island histories be exaggerated? Most threatened species have small geographic ranges, and the ranges of island species are inevitably smaller than those of continental species. For a given range size, how do the proportions of threatened island and continental species compare? Here we compile the ranges of the passerine (perching) birds of the Americas. Corrected for range size, continental species are more-not less-likely to be threatened. We use this unexpected vulnerability of continental species with small ranges to produce a map showing where species losses might occur in the long term.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Manne, LL; Brooks, TM; Pimm, SL

Published Date

  • May 20, 1999

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 399 / 6733

Start / End Page

  • 258 - 261

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0028-0836

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/20436

Citation Source

  • Scopus