Crumbling Island Keystones: Threat Diversity and Intensification on Islands Push Large Island Fruit Bats to the Brink

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Tigga Kingston, F B Vincent Florens, Christian E Vincenot


Large island fruit bats (LIFB), species of Pteropus, Acerodon, and related genera in the pteropodid subfamily Pteropodinae, are keystone species for island conservation in the Palaeotropics, playing critical roles as agents of dispersal and pollination of native island plant communities. This keystone role is crumbling because LIFB are collectively the most threatened group of bats in the world. Six species (7.4%) have gone extinct in the last 200 years and ~66% of extant species are assessed as threatened by the IUCN. Life history characteristics, long lives, and low reproductive rates, elevate vulnerability and species are commonly subject to multiple threats. Here we review the primary threats to LIFB, namely unsustainable hunting, habitat degradation and loss, urbanisation, climate change, invasive species, and persecution. We highlight how the island context intensifies and accelerates population and species declines. We make specific recommendations in response to the major threats and identify overarching research needs to support conservation action. Specifically, research is needed that addresses: (1) population sizes and trends; (2) life history and social ecology; (3) dietary, roosting and movement ecology; (4) human attitudes and behaviors towards LIFB; (5) island-specific threats to LIFB; (6) distributions, populations and ecology of non-Pteropus species. Although there is great complexity of threats and contexts, five key conservation actions emerge that have the collective potential to secure LIFB populations throughout their ranges: (1) protect and restore native habitats; (2) improve attitudes and behaviours towards LIFB; (3) strengthen protective legislation and enforcement; (4) captive breeding of species at immediate risk of extinction; (5) build and network research and conservation capacity.
Key words: flying fox, monkey-faced bat, island conservation, keystone species, Pteropus, Acerodon, hunting, habitat loss, climate change.



Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences


Acerodon, climate change, Desmalopex, flying fox, habitat loss, human dimensions of wildlife, hunting, island conservation, keystone species, Mirimiri, monkey-faced bat, Neopteryx, Pteralopex, Pteropodidae, Pteropus, Styloctenium


Published: 2021-07-29 13:20


CC-By Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International