Applying a novel spatial prioritization technique to support climate-resilient conservation planning for the recovery of 300 endangered and at-risk species in Maui Nui

Three wading birds perch on a small islet amidst a wetlands area
The hundreds of endangered species in Hawaiʻi, like these bristle-thighed curlews, span the biological range from birds to insects, mammals, and plants, each threatened by a complex web of threats from other species, human development, and climate change. (Photo: public domain)

Hawaiʻi is often referred to as the endangered species capital of the world, with hundreds of species at risk. While Hawaiian forest birds have garnered attention in the global conservation community as they face imminent extinction due to climate change, climate also poses serious challenges to hundreds of other Hawaiian species. Although traditional recovery plans provide meaningful guidance to managers, it is impractical and inefficient to work across multiple individual plans for hundreds of species at risk when the species, threats, and conservation actions overlap in complex ways. Until recently, a structured approach to aid the scaling-up of such conservation efforts across multiple species was not available.

In collaboration with state, federal and private land managers and species experts, a research team developed a spatial tool that integrates climate resiliency, leverages existing restoration efforts and infrastructures, and incorporates logistical constraints specific to conservation practitioners, such as site accessibility, and conflicting land uses like game management. This research effort is a component of a broader effort to develop and implement a plan to prevent the extinction and support recovery of a substantial portion of Hawaiʻi’s at-risk species. This approach will be used to scale-up and include over 300 at-risk species in order to identify climate-resilient habitat for the recovery of all species at a landscape scale. Outputs will serve as a recovery footprint for the Maui Landscape Conservation Plan and be used by resource managers across Maui Nui to inform recovery efforts and may help safeguard hundreds of endangered and at-risk species across the Hawaiian Islands.





Lucas Fortini
Research Ecologist, USGS Pacific Islands Ecosystem Research Center


Christina Leopold
Conservation Ecologist, Hawaiʻi Cooperative Studies Unit, UH Hilo
Scott Fretz
DOFAW Maui Branch Manager, Hawaiʻi DLNR