A review of threats to island endemic rails

Schnaitman, Rachel
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University of Delaware
I conducted a literature review on the number, distribution, conservation status, and principle threats to island endemic rails in an attempt to prioritize which species may be in need of greatest conservation action. Presently, there are 134 species in the family Rallidae, 41 of those are island endemic. Island endemic rails are affected by 42 different types of threats. Predation by alien mammalian predators was the greatest threat to island endemic rail species, with 30% of the rail species affected, followed by habitat degradation and infrastructure development affecting 22% of species. Rattus spp. were found to be the mammalian predator affecting rail population the most followed by the domestic cat (Felis catus) and the cane toad (Bufo marinus). I also examined the islands that host endemic rail species to see how island size and distance to a mainland effects rail species. Critically endangered rails comprise 7.3% of all island endemic rail species that occur on less than 3% of the total islands that host island endemic rails. Islands that host critically endangered rails were the smallest islands that host rails and were the furthest from a mainland. They averaged less than 7200 km2 and are 385 km2 away from a mainland. Several oceanic islands have been conducting research on the eradication of rats. Removal of mammalian predators not only decreases predation and thus can increase rail numbers, but it also facilitates restoration of habitat. Seven percent of the island endemic rail species were listed as data deficient, making it hard to see which threats affect these species or to see a population trend for these species which are important factors needed to begin conservation efforts to help these species. Establishing monitoring protocols for each species and island would provide information needed to create conservation and management plans for endemic rail species.