27 Mar 2013

Hundreds of bird species driven to extinction by human colonisation in Pacific

5:20 am on 27 March 2013

A new study suggests that over one thousand species of bird were driven to extinction by human colonisation of the Pacific Islands.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, says that when the first settlers arrived in the South Pacific, hunting and deforestation led bird species to die out rapidly.

The lead author of the study, Canberra University's Professor Richard Duncan, says researchers analysed fossils and historical accounts of birds, before estimating the extinction rates on 41 different islands through a mathematical model.

"Really, to put it in context, the loss of bird species across these islands represents around about 10 percent of the world's bird diversity. So I guess it illustrates on islands which are particularly vulnerable to human impacts that human arrival can really cause quite major and substantial changes to those systems in just a very short period of time."

Professor Duncan says the species decline would have only happened over a few decades.