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

December 23, 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 climate change 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 West Nile virus, 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 San Diego Zoo 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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The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research is dedicated to generating, sharing and applying scientific knowledge vital to the conservation of animals, plants and habitats worldwide. The work of the Institute includes onsite research efforts at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (historically referred to as Wild Animal Park), laboratory work at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Conservation Research, and international field programs involving more than 235 researchers working in 35 countries. In addition to the Beckman Center for Conservation Research, the Institute also operates the Anne and Kenneth Griffin Reptile Conservation Center, the Frozen Zoo® and Native Seed Gene Bank, the Keauhou and Maui Hawaiian Bird Conservation Centers, Cocha Cashu Biological Research Station and the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center. The Zoo also manages the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which includes a 900-acre biodiversity reserve, and the San Diego Zoo. The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.

Zoological Society of San Diego

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