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Patterns in island endemic forest-dependent bird research: the Caribbean as a case-study
- Devenish-Nelson, Eleanor S., Weidemann, Douglas, Townsend, Jason, Nelson, Howard P.
- Biodiversity and conservation 2019 v.28 no.7 pp. 1885-1904
- Cuculidae, Psittacidae, birds, deforestation, extinction, funding, habitats, indigenous species, islands, population dynamics, risk, Caribbean, Jamaica, Puerto Rico
- Unequal patterns in research effort can result in inaccurate assessments of species extinction risk or ineffective management. A group of notable conservation concern are tropical island endemic birds, many of which are also forest-dependent, which increases their vulnerability to extinction. Yet, island bird species have received limited research attention compared to their continental congeners, despite this taxon being globally regarded as well-studied. We used the insular Caribbean, a globally important endemism hotspot with high rates of deforestation, to explore research bias of island and regional endemic forest-dependent birds. A review of the published literature (n = 992) found no significant increase in the number of studies over the search period. Research effort was significantly higher among species with threatened status, long generation time, wide habitat breadth and low to intermediate elevational distributions. Among family groups, the Psittacidae received the highest research effort, while the Cuculidae were the most underrepresented family (30-fold higher and six-fold less than expected, respectively). We found geographic biases in effort, with Jamaica having six-fold less and Puerto Rico eight times more research than expected for their level of endemism. These patterns likely reflect individual interests and limited capacity and funding, typical of Small Island Developing States. With over 50% of species in this review having declining population trends, we recommend prioritizing research that emphasises conservation- and management-relevant data across underrepresented families and islands, by fostering greater collaboration between researchers, practitioners and the existing local amateur ornithological community.