Establishing climate change vulnerability rankings for Hawaiian native plants

Loulu lelo, a threatened endemic Hawaiian tree. (Photo: Starr CC BY 3.0)

Hawaiʻi is considered a worldwide biodiversity hotspot, with nearly 90 percent of its native plants found nowhere else in the world. However, about half of these native plants are imperiled by threats including human development, non-native species, and climate change. Through this project, scientists modeled the relative vulnerability of over 1,000 native plant species to the effects of climate change. A panel of experts in Hawaiian plant species assisted with the development of the model and verified its results. From the model, researchers were able to develop a vulnerability score for each plant species and identify categories of species with high, medium, and low vulnerability to climate change. This information will be highly useful to resource managers as they seek to effectively allocate limited resources toward the protection of habitat for native plants and set priorities for future work.





Lucas Fortini
Research Ecologist, USGS Pacific Islands Ecosystem Research Center