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The human dimension of biodiversity changes on islands

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Science  30 Apr 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6541, pp. 488-491
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd6706

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Accelerating ecosystem disruption

Oceanic islands are among the most recent areas on Earth to have been colonized by humans, in many cases in just the past few thousand years. Therefore, they are important laboratories for the study of human impacts on natural vegetation and biodiversity. Nogué et al. provide a quantitative palaeoecological study of 27 islands around the world, focusing on pollen records of vegetation composition before and after human arrival. The authors found a consistent pattern of acceleration of vegetation turnover after human invasion, with median rates of change increasing by a factor of six. These changes occurred regardless of geographical and ecological features of the island and show how rapidly ecosystems can change and how island ecosystems are set on new trajectories.

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