Collapsing avian community on a Hawaiian island

Science Advances
By: , and 



The viability of many species has been jeopardized by numerous negative factors over the centuries, but climate change is predicted to accelerate and increase the pressure of many of these threats, leading to extinctions. The Hawaiian honeycreepers, famous for their spectacular adaptive radiation, are predicted to experience negative responses to climate change, given their susceptibility to introduced disease, the strong linkage of disease distribution to climatic conditions, and their current distribution. We document the rapid collapse of the native avifauna on the island of Kaua‘i that corresponds to changes in climate and disease prevalence. Although multiple factors may be pressuring the community, we suggest that a tipping point has been crossed in which temperatures in forest habitats at high elevations have reached a threshold that facilitates the development of avian malaria and its vector throughout these species’ ranges. Continued incursion of invasive weeds and non-native avian competitors may be facilitated by climate change and could also contribute to declines. If current rates of decline continue, we predict multiple extinctions in the coming decades. Kaua‘i represents an early warning for the forest bird communities on the Maui and Hawai‘i islands, as well as other species around the world that are trapped within a climatic space that is rapidly disappearing.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Collapsing avian community on a Hawaiian island
Series title Science Advances
DOI 10.1126/sciadv.1600029
Volume 2
Issue 9
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher American Association for the Advancement of Science
Contributing office(s) Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
Description e1600029; 8 p.
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