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    Extinctions of Caribbean animals were well underway during the period of Amerindian occupation and have continued since the arrival of Columbus. Despite high extinction rates, the Caribbean still retains high levels of terrestrial biodiversity and, for some taxa, exceptionally high levels of endemism relative to other parts of the world. The fate of the Caribbean’s biodiversity is considered especially precarious, given the region’s contribution of unique species to the Earth’s biodiversity and its high rate of habitat loss, which together qualify the region as a global biodiversity hotspot. Of the 25 global biodiversity hotspots the Caribbean ranks in the top six, in part due to considerable habitat loss associated with the region’s high human population densities. Given the already precarious state of Carib- bean biodiversity, a “business as usual” scenario for the future does not bode well for conservation and suggests that substantial challenges will face conservation efforts in the region. As the future pace of globalization accelerates, the challenges to biodiversity conservation will likely include global warming effects (i.e., drier conditions, possibly stronger hurricanes, rise in sea level), increased urbanization, and faster spread of invasive exotic pests and diseases into the region. Despite a gloomy assessment of future challenges to biodiversity in the Caribbean, conservation problems in the past have been found to be tractable, especially when conservation education has been linked to island pride. If conservation education and outreach activities continue to increase in the region there is hope that the citizens of the Caribbean will come to appreciate and ultimately preserve much of the biodiversity unique to their islands.

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    Wunderle Jr., Joseph M. 2008. From the past to the globalized future for Caribbean birds. [Keynote speech]. Journal of Caribbean Ornithology. 21: 69-79.


    biodiversity, birds, Caribbean, conservation, education, extinctions, future challenges

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