Modeling climate-driven changes to dominant vegetation in the Hawaiian Islands

Overview of a large Hawaiian valley, looking out to the sea beyond
From the ridge to the reef, Hawaiian landscapes span a wide range of climatic conditions. (Photo: JPrice)

Hawaiʻi is home to a rich diversity of native plants, about 90 percent of which are found nowhere else in the world. However, changing climate conditions may reduce the amount of suitable habitat for native plants and contribute to the spread of invasive plant species. The goal of this project was to better understand how Hawaiian native and invasive plants will respond to climate change. Scientists focused on 10 important native and five important invasive plant species, using over 35 years of data from thousands of locations in Hawai‘i to assess the plants’ preferred climate conditions and model their likely best future habitat based on climate change projections. The resulting maps and findings provide an initial set of decision support tools to help resource managers identify key locations for conserving native plants (and the birds and insects that rely on them) and for anticipating and controlling the spread of invasive plant species.





Jonathan Price
Assoc. Professor of Geography, UH Hilo


James Jacobi
Biologist, USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center