Researchers evaluate conservation of island bird species in the context of climate change

December 27, 2011

The island scrub-jay is the only island endemic passerine species in the continental United States. Although it is not classified as endangered, the species faces a number of threats to its long-term survival, and climate change is expected to exacerbate those challenges. A new study discusses the conservation management of the island scrub-jay, and highlights how management of this species may set the stage for management planning of many species in a changing world.

"The island scrub-jay poses an interesting problem for conservationists today, because right now, the species doesn't seem to be experiencing a problem" said Scott Morrison, Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy of California. "But, we know that with there are serious threats on the horizon. So we have an opportunity to act now to prevent problems in the future."

The study, published in the December issue of Bioscience, cites the continuing spread of diseases such as , diseases whose spread is enhanced by climate change, as a critical challenge for the conservation of species such as the island scrub-jay. The 20 authors, representing 16 research and management organizations, outline four proactive management options for species like the island scrub-jay: captive propagation, vaccination against diseases such as West Nile virus, implementation of biosecurity measures and the establishment of a second free-living population.

"This paper provides a thorough discussion of the threats facing island species in light of climate change and habitat loss," said Alan Lieberman, Director of Regional Conservation programs for Global's Institute of Conservation Research. "We hope this work will provide a template for the conservation of the many other island bird species that are facing the same challenges."

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