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Extinction & biogeography of tropical Pacific birds (book review)

Recher, H.F. (2011) Extinction & biogeography of tropical Pacific birds (book review). Pacific Conservation Biology, 17 (2). pp. 163-164.

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ALTHOUGH Steadman’s book was published in 2006, it has lost none of its value. Without question, Extinction & Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds is one of the most interesting and informative books published on the birds of the Pacific Region in the last 100 years. It ranks in importance with Ernst Mayr’s Birds of the Southwest Pacific (1945) and should be read by everyone with an interest in the ecology and history of the Pacific islands. The impact of humans on the fauna of the Pacific is well known, but I doubt many of us appreciated either the scale of that impact or the speed at which it occurred, much less who was responsible. The Pacific islands were among the last lands colonized by the world’s ever expanding human population (and some may be the first to be de-populated as sea levels rise with global warming). Some islands, such as New Zealand, may only have been colonized within the last 600–800 years. For others, such as New Britain, people arrived ~30-35,000 BP. In all instances, bar the large continental islands, and regardless of island size and isolation, the impact of humans on birds was the same — rapid extinction of almost all species. Because many, if not most, islands had evolved endemic species of flightless rails, the total number of extinctions estimated by Steadman is between 1000 and 2000 species (p.319), of which the number of extinct rails lies between 500 and 1600 (p.316). The birds that survived are a vestige of a much richer and diverse avifauna. This is what makes Steadman’s account so important.

Item Type: Non-refereed Article
Publisher: Surrey Beatty & Sons
Copyright: © Surrey Beatty & Sons
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