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Insular species, particularly birds, experience high levels of speciation and endemism. Similarly, island birds experience extreme levels of extinction. Based on a 2012 taxonomic assessment, historically there were four reed-warbler species in the Mariana Islands, the Guam Reed-warbler Acrocephalus luscinia (Guam), the Nightingale Reed-warbler Acrocephalus hiwae (Saipan and Alamagan), the Aguijuan Reed-warbler A. nijoi (Aguiguan or Aguijuan), and the Pagan Reed-warbler A. yamashinae (Pagan). Between 2008 and 2010 we surveyed for three of these species on Alamagan, Aguiguan, and Pagan. Our results indicate that reed-warblers are extinct on Aguiguan, likely extinct on Pagan, and only the Nightingale Reed-warbler on Alamagan and Saipan remains. We estimated the global population at between 1,019 and 6,356 birds (95% CI; mean estimate 3,688), which has declined by more than 1,000 birds since the first quantitative surveys were conducted in 1982, i.e. a 24% decline in 28 years. Camp et al. (2009) describe the status of the Nightingale Reed-warbler on Saipan, which has also declined. We estimated the Alamagan population to be between 428 and 1,762 birds in 2010 (mean estimate 946). Thus, the Alamagan population is ~25 % of the global population, and it has declined slightly since 2000. This decline was not significant but is concerning, especially given a similar decline on Saipan. Restoration and protection of tall-stature native and secondary forest could benefit the Alamagan population, as would similar conservation on Saipan that includes wetland habitat. After suitable restoration of forest and wetland habitats on Aguiguan, Guam and Pagan, individuals from Alamagan and Saipan could serve as founder populations. Careful consideration of the extent and habitat preference of individuals translocated to Tinian, where an unknown reed-warbler species previously occurred, is warranted.
Invasive predators have decimated island biodiversity worldwide. Rats (Rattus spp.) are perhaps the greatest conservation threat to island fauna. The ground nesting Palau Micronesian Scrubfowl Megapodius laperouse senex (Megapodiidae) inhabits many of the islands of Palau’s Rock Island Southern Lagoon Conservation Area (RISL) in the western Pacific. These islands are also heavily visited by tourists and support populations of introduced rats, both of which may act as added stressors for the scrubfowl. Using passive chew-tag and call playback surveys on five tourist-visited and five tourist-free islands, we investigated if rats and tourists negatively affect scrubfowl, and if higher rat activity is associated with tourist presence. Rat detection probability and site occupancy were significantly higher on tourist visited (89% and 99%, respectively) compared to tourist-free islands (52% and 73%). Scrubfowl were detected at significantly more stations on tourist-free (93%) than tourist visited (47%) islands and their relative abundance was higher (2.66 and 1.58 birds per station, respectively), although not statistically significantly. While rat occupancy probability likewise had a non-significant negative effect on scrubfowl numbers across islands, our results show a negative relationship between tourist presence and scrubfowl in the RISL. Our findings also suggest that rat populations may be augmented by tourist visitation in the RISL. Although this situation may not seriously affect the scrubfowl, it may be highly detrimental to populations of other threatened island landbirds.
Aspects of species life histories may increase their susceptibility to climate change. Owing to their exclusive reliance on environmental sources of heat for incubation, megapodes may be especially vulnerable. We employed a trait-based vulnerability assessment to weigh their exposure to projected climate variables of increasing temperatures, fluctuating rainfall and sea level rise and their biological sensitivity and capacity to adapt. While all 21 species were predicted to experience at least a 2 °C increase in mean annual temperature, 12 to experience a moderate or greater fluctuation in rainfall and 16 to experience rising seas, the most vulnerable megapodes are intrinsically rare and range restricted. Species that employ microbial decomposition for incubation may have an adaptive advantage over those that do not and may be more resilient to climate change. The moderate microclimate necessary for mound incubation, however, may in some areas be threatened by anthropogenic habitat loss exacerbated by warmer and seasonally drier conditions. As with many avian species, little is known about the capacity of megapodes to adapt to a changing climate. We therefore recommend that future research efforts investigate megapode fecundity, gene flow and genetic connectivity at the population level to better determine their adaptive capacity.
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