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Open access book about Biodiversity of the Gulf of Guinea Oceanic Islands


Tropibio member Martim Melo, together with Luis M. P. Ceríaco, Ricardo F. de Lima, and Rayna C. Bell edited the book "Biodiversity of the Gulf of Guinea Oceanic Islands: Science and Conservation”.  

  • This is the most comprehensive and updated book about the biodiversity and conservation of the Gulf of Guinea Oceanic Islands;
  • It contains revised taxonomic checklists for the most important plant and animal groups;
  • It comprises in-depth revisions of the ecosystems and conservation issues affecting island systems;
  • The book serves as a roadmap for future research on the conservation of the biodiversity of the Gulf of Guinea islands.

This book is available for download.  The physical version can be ordered too. A Portuguese translation - with also an open access version - is ongoing

Tropibio project has also supported three chapters on the book: 
  • Chapter 2: Physical geography of the Gulf of Guinea Oceanic Islands.  Abstract: The Gulf of Guinea, in the Atlantic coast of Central Africa, has three oceanic islands that arose as part of the Cameroon Volcanic Line. From northeast to southwest these are Príncipe (139 km2), São Tomé (857 km2), and Annobón (17 km2). Although relatively close to the adjacent mainland, the islands have distinct climactic and geomorphologic characteristics, and have remained isolated throughout their geological history. Consequently, they have developed a unique biodiversity, rich in endemic species. We provide an integrated overview of the physical setting of the islands, including their geographic location, geological origin, topography, geology and soils, climate zones, and prevailing wind and ocean currents—key features that underlie the evolution of their biodiversity.
  • Chapter 6: Biogeography and evolution in the oceanic islands of the Gulf of Guinea.  Abstract As with most archipelagos, geography played a central role in the assembly and evolution of the endemic-rich biological communities of the Gulf of Guinea oceanic islands. The islands are located at moderate distances from the species-rich African continent that surrounds them to the east and north. This proximity facilitated colonization by many branches of the tree of life, but gene flow between the islands and continent was low enough that many lineages evolved in isolation once they reached the archipelago, resulting in many endemic species. Furthermore, several of the island taxa belong to groups typically considered to be "poor dispersers” across sea barriers, which strongly supports a role for natural rafts in seeding the islands. Oceanic currents, including the freshwater pathways that extend from large river drainages into the Gulf of Guinea during the rainy season, also support this hypothesis. The distances between the islands are equivalent to those between the islands and the continent such that inter-island dispersal events appear to be relatively rare and thus few taxa are shared between them. Still, the islands present multiple cases of secondary contact leading to hybridization and genetic introgression between closely related lineages—providing several models to study the role and consequences of gene flow in evolution. Most taxa for which molecular estimates of divergence time have been derived are much younger than the ages of the islands. This pattern is consistent with high species turnover, likely resulting from a combination of small island sizes, proximity to the African continent and a long history of intense volcanic activity. The Gulf of Guinea oceanic islands provide multiple examples of classical adaptations to island life (the "island syndrome”), including giants and dwarves, ornament and color loss, among others. In addition, emerging studies of birds are highlighting the importance of competition regimes in driving phenotypic change—with examples of both character release (low interspecific competition) and character displacement (inter-specific competition upon secondary contact). Collectively, the Gulf of Guinea oceanic islands offer unique opportunities to study adaptation and speciation in a range of taxa and contexts.
  • Chapter 21. The Avifauna of the Gulf of Guinea Oceanic Islands. Abstract Although birds have always been one of the best-known taxa on the Gulf of Guinea oceanic islands, our understanding of their ecology and evolution has increased substantially in the last two decades. Intensive field-based surveys have allowed the first detailed island-wide distribution maps for most species and a much better grasp of habitat associations, highlighting the importance of native forests for many of the endemic birds. Molecular data have provided important insights into evolutionary history, leading to an extensive revision of the taxonomy of the islands’ endemic avifauna. Most speciation events are much more recent than the age of the islands, indicating a high species turn-over that is likely explained by the islands’ history of intense volcanic activity and their moderate distances to the mainland. These islands have the highest accumulation of endemic bird species for small oceanic islands: at least 29 endemic species occur in three islands with a total area of just over 1000 km2. This may be explained by their particular geographic location: offshore from a species-rich continent at distances that allowed the colonization and evolution in isolation of many distinct lineages. All these contributions are now being used to ensure bird conservation, through updated species conservation status and species action plans for the most threatened species, and also to promote the conservation of the native forests on which most of the endemic birds depend. 

Ceríaco, L.M.P., Santos, B.S., de Lima, R.F., Bell, R.C., Norder, S.J., Melo, M. (2022). Physical geography of the Gulf of Guinea Oceanic Islands. In: Ceríaco, L.M.P., de Lima, R.F., Melo, M., Bell, R.C. (eds) Biodiversity of the Gulf of Guinea Oceanic Islands. Springer, Cham. pp. 13-36. Read here.

Melo, M., Ceríaco, L.M.P., Bell, R.C. (2022). Biogeography and evolution in the oceanic islands of the Gulf of Guinea. In: Ceríaco, L.M.P., de Lima, R.F., Melo, M., Bell, R.C. (eds) Biodiversity of the Gulf of Guinea Oceanic Islands. Springer, Cham. pp. 141-170. Read here. 

Melo, M., Jones, P.J., de Lima, R.F. (2022). The Avifauna of the Gulf of Guinea Oceanic Islands. In: Ceríaco, L.M.P., de Lima, R.F., Melo, M., Bell, R.C. (eds) Biodiversity of the Gulf of Guinea Oceanic Islands. Springer, Cham. pp. 555-592. Read here. 

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