A team of researchers from the University of Göttingen in Germany and Yale University (USA) has presented the most comprehensive description and characterization so far of bio-climatic and physical characteristics of the world’s islands.
Islands make up only 5% of the land surface of the Earth, but they are home to a disproportionately high number of plant and animal species and provide ecosystem functions and services to more than 500 million people. However, a quantitative description of the ecological conditions on islands had been lacking so far. The study now closes this gap.
The researchers employed modern statistical approaches to describe, classify and map the islands based on differences in their environments. This allows the identification of islands with similar environmental settings and will facilitate further island bio-geographical studies and biodiversity conservation.
“These new results provide a new perspective on thousands of our planet’s islands,” said Prof. Dr. Holger Kreft from the University of Göttingen, leader of the study. “For instance, 65% of all islands are located in the tropics, but compared to mainlands, island climates are on average cooler and more humid. An interesting finding of our study is that there are many more islands with a temperate rainforest climate, one of the rarest ecosystems on Earth, than expected by chance.”