Islands host a large number of unique species ranging from marine iguanas on the Galapagos and tool-using crows on New Caledonia to giant spiders on Madeira and the extinct Dodo from Mauritius. However, less exotic islands closer to home can also offer unique sub species such as the Lundy cabbage and the Jersey bank vole.
The factors behind the rich flora and fauna on islands include geological factors such as their isolation, remoteness and varied topology, evolutionary factors such as small founder populations and limited gene flow with mainland species and ecological factors such as reduced competition and predation. However, these factors combined with smaller overall distributions and population sizes also make them less able to respond to rapid human-induced changes to their environment arising from climate change, invasive species and habitat loss.
During the day you will get a comprehensive overview of these factors starting in the morning with an introduction to the formation, diversity and evolutionary processes acting on islands demonstrating why islands are considered to be natural laboratories for ecological and evolutionary studies. This will be followed by a focus on the ecological and behavioural adaptations on island species including unique pollination and seed dispersal, dwarfism or gigantism, loss of dispersal ability and fear of predators.
In the afternoon we will look at the many threats that are facing islands, especially remote oceanic islands and the reasons why island species are particular vulnerable to introduced invasive alien species as well as climate change and habitat loss from urban developments or tourism-related activities. However, it is not all doom and gloom as we will also look into some of the many successful reintroduction and restoration projects that have been carried out on islands worldwide. We will finish the day with a fascinating case study on the remote island of Bermuda, where long-thought extinct snails have made a recurrence and where threats from invasive species and human developments on vegetation and bird life are rivalled by the devasting impact of hurricanes.