Display Project

Predicting Risks of Island Extinctions Due to Sea-level Rise: Model Based Tools to Mitigate Terrestrial Habitat Losses in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Project Information

Principal Investigator(s):
Michelle H Reynolds (USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center)
Paul Berkowitz (USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center)
Karen N Courtot (USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center)
Crystal M Krause (USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center)

Start Date: 2009

End Date: 2011

Project Status: In Progress

Tags: sea-level rise, climate change, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Papahānaumokuākea, birds, climate models, CSC, NCCWSC, 2009, Science Project, Marine Protected Areas, Code of Federal Regulations, Boundaries, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Kure Atoll, Midway Atoll, Pearl and Hermes Atoll, Lisianski Island, Pioneer Bank, Laysan Island, Maro Reef, Raita Bank, Gardner Pinnacles, W. St. Rogatien Bank, St. Rogatien Bank, Brooks Bank, Middle Brooks Bank, Baby Brooks Bank, French Frigate Shoals, Bank 66, Necker Island, Twin Banks, Nihoa Island, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument

Affiliation: NCCWSC

Fiscal Year: FY 2009 Projects


Scenarios of projected global climate change predict that sea level rise may inundate coastal and low elevation Pacific islands. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands include 300,000 sq. km of ocean waters and 10 sub-tropical islands and atolls of high conservation value. Designated as Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the islands provide habitat for the largest and most important assemblages of tropical seabirds in the world, with 14 million birds (22 species) and 11 endangered species of terrestrial birds and plants. Existing models of projected terrestrial habitat loss vary greatly between islands, but even small increases in sea level may result in loss of critical habitat and increase risk of extinctions of species restricted to low lying atolls. Thus, current conservation strategies to address climate change are based primarily on building interconnected systems of corridors and reserves. These strategies may be inadequate for many island species that are entirely blocked from shifting their geographic ranges by anthropogenic barriers to dispersal, such as loss of habitat, urbanization, introduced predators (absent from the remote low lying islands), or by behavioral and geographic constraints on dispersal. These island ecosystems require downsized spatial and temporal models to identify, assess, and manage risks to unique biological resources. By identifying areas and species most vulnerable, resource managers can plan for management scenarios such restorations or as the intentional transport of species to prevent species extinction (i.e. “assisted migration” or translocation).

Products & Data
  • Management of Black-footed Albatross in the Face of Climate Change

    A Case Study from the Structured Decision Making Workshop (February 28-March 4, 2011) (External URL)
  • New Publication Press Release

    New Research Underscores Vulnerability of Wildlife in Low-Lying Hawaiian Islands (External URL)
  • Population Dynamics of Hawaiian Seabird Colonies Vulnerable to Sea-Level Rise

    Hatfield, Reynolds, Krause, Seavy 2012 FFS Final.pdf (Download)
  • Predicting sea-level rise vulnerability of terrestrial habitat and wildlife of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

    View more information about this publication: External URL
    metadata778926231002480946.xml (Download)
  • Trading off short-term and long-term risk: minimizing the threat of Laysan Duck extinction from catastrophes and sea-level rise

    A Case Study from the Structured Decision Making Workshop (January 25–29, 2010) (External URL)
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