Increasing biodiversity is not always best

Biodiversity worldwide may be decreasing, but at smaller scales it is increasing or at least changing in composition, suggesting the need for a dramatic shift in the current focus of ecological research. These changes may undermine the functioning of local ecosystems, according to an article in December’s American Naturalist. The authors studied data collected on oceanic island land birds and plants. Records from islands are useful because they present discrete areas where additions and subtractions of species can be accurately determined. The article, “Species Invasions Exceed extinctions on Islands Worldwide: A Comparative Study of Plants and Birds,” documents the fact that “land birds have experienced massive extinctions on oceanic islands, with many islands losing more than half of their native species,” said Gaines. “On these same islands, however, many exotic bird species have become established, such that the total number of land bird species has remained relatively unchanged.”