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The Mediating Factors of land Sea Connectivity on Islands


Are island ecosystems connected to their nearshore marine environment? Islands are global biodiversity hotspots and the management of their natural resources is vital to the maintenance of global biodiversity and the survival of Earth's life support systems. However, both research and management have been slow to incorporate the importance of land-sea connections into their practice. Terrestrial and marine habitats are inextricably connected; incorporating the connections between the two to any research or management of these systems will improve efficacy by improving the resolution of our understanding of ecosystem drivers. If we are to incorporate land-sea connectivity into research and management, we first need to clarify our understanding of the patterns and variability of connectivity across geographic and biological contexts. The focus of this paper is to identify the factors mediating the ecological connection between land and sea on islands, which can be interpreted to determine the local importance of land-sea connectivity and identify candidate mechanisms defining the connectivity. With more detailed understanding of land-sea linkages, there is opportunity to apply this knowledge toward applied issues of island resource management and restoration. Using a practical case study of island restoration, we operationalize our proposed factors mediating the strength of land-sea connectivity to compare a set of islands targeted for restoration efforts, creating a prioritization based upon the island-specific estimated potential for improved land-sea connectivity and associated marine co-benefit of terrestrial management.

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