From Silverswords to Honeycreepers: Project Snapshots from the Pacific Islands

Aloha! As the rest of the country struggles through the final days of winter, we invite you on a virtual trip to the sunny shores of the Hawaiian and other Pacific Islands...

There, researchers working with the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center are studying all manner of interesting things, from the majestic-looking Haleakalā silversword to brightly colored honeycreepers. Their work seeks to provide land managers in federal, state and local agencies with the best available science on climate change and other landscape-scale stressors that are impacting the nation’s natural and cultural resources in the region.

The following eight project snapshots provide a glimpse into some of their efforts.


Haleakala silversword, HawaiiIt’s Not Easy Being Green

Effects of changing climate on the Haleakalā Silversword, a rare Hawaiian plant
Paul Krushelnycky, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

The summit of Haleakalā volcano on the Hawaiian island of Maui is home to the striking silver-green Haleakalā silversword, a distant relative of the daisy. This iconic, federally threatened plant is imperiled by shifting climate patterns, particularly lower rainfall, which is why scientists modeled its outlook for the next 100 years. Learn more >>

Expanding a dynamic model of species vulnerability to climate change for Hawai‘i
Lucas Fortini, USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center

Nearly 90% of the plants native to Hawaiʻi are found nowhere else in the world, but about half of these are threatened by human development, non-native species and climate change. Scientists used modeling to determine the relative vulnerability of over 1,000 native plants to climate change, which will be useful to plant conservation managers as they set priorities for future work. Learn more >>

Potential impacts of projected climate change on vegetation management strategies in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
James Jacobi and Rick Camp, USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is home to a myriad of native plants, many rare and found within biologically rich sections of the Park known as “Special Ecological Areas.” Researchers forecasted how plant habitat will be affected by future changes in temperature and rainfall, so that park managers can better protect species and communities. Learn more >>


Hawaiian beachWater, Water Everywhere

Empirical projection of future shoreline position change in the main Hawaiian Islands due to sea-level rise
Charles Fletcher and Tiffany Anderson, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Kauaʻi’s sandy beaches attract visitors from around the world, but are disappearing as a result of sea-level rise. Scientists used historical beach data and sea-level rise projections to model future erosion and beach loss, developing data and interactive maps that will be used by local coastal managers and in climate adaptation plans for the state. Learn more >>

Development of statistical methods to estimate baseline and future low-flow characteristics of ungaged streams in Hawaiʻi
Maoya Bassiouni, USGS Pacific Islands Water Science Center, currently at Water Resources Engineering, Oregon State University

Surrounded by saltwater, human and natural communities depend on Hawaiʻi’s freshwater streams for survival. It’s important to be able to predict how streams will be affected by changing rainfall as a result of climate change, which is why researchers generated a model to forecast the sensitivity and responses of streams to future conditions. Learn more >>


Coral reefCoral Reefs, Rainforests of the Sea

Valuing climate change impacts on coral reef ecosystem services
Kirsten Oleson, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Hawaiʻi’s colorful coral reefs are a source of recreation, food, and livelihood for many residents – however, they are also increasingly threatened by stressors including climate change. Scientists developed a tool for managers to compare the effects of reef management strategies under different climate scenarios, so that they can more effectively protect coral reefs and the services they provide. Learn more >>

Coral reef resilience to climate change in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Laurie Raymundo, University of Guam Marine Laboratory
Jeffrey Maynard, Marine Applied Research Center

While sensitive to environmental changes, some coral reefs are able to recover from disturbance more quickly than others. Scientists collaborated with managers to evaluate reefs at 78 locations throughout the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and identify which management actions would best support natural resilience at each site. Learn more >>


'I'iwi bird, a type of Hawaiian honeycreeperA Bird’s-Eye View

Vulnerability of Hawaiian forest birds to climate change
Michael Samuel, USGS Wisconsin Cooperative Research Unit
Carter Atkinson, Dennis LaPointe, and Eben Paxton, USGS Pacific Islands Ecosystems Research Center

Brightly colored honeycreepers, many threatened or endangered, dwell in the high-elevation forests of Hawaiʻi, where they are susceptible to avian malaria, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Because warmer temperatures are allowing mosquitoes to move to higher elevations, researchers modeled the disease’s future trajectory and explored promising ways for responding to the threat. Learn more >>

For more information and products from these and other Pacific Island CSC projects, please browse our online project webpages.

Photos on page (from top to bottom): Haleakalā silverswords, Maui, Hawaiʻi (Paul Krushelnycky); Hawaiian beach (Public Domain); Coral reef (Public Domain); 'I'iwi bird, a type of Hawaiian honeycreeper (Robby Kohley)

Published Date: March 20th, 2017