Long-term streamflow trends in Hawai‘i and implications for native stream fauna

Hydrological Processes
By: , and 



Climate change has fundamentally altered the water cycle in tropical islands, which is a critical driver of freshwater ecosystems. To examine how changes in streamflow regime have impacted habitat quality for native migratory aquatic species, we present a 50‐year (1967–2016) analysis of hydrologic records in 23 unregulated streams across the five largest Hawaiian Islands. For each stream, flow was separated into direct run‐off and baseflow and high‐ and low‐flow statistics (i.e., Q10 and Q90) with ecologically important hydrologic indices (e.g., frequency of flooding and low flow duration) derived. Using Mann–Kendall tests with a running trend analysis, we determined the persistence of streamflow trends through time. We analysed native stream fauna from ~400 sites, sampled from 1992 to 2007, to assess species richness among islands and streams. Declines in streamflow metrics indicated a general drying across the islands. In particular, significant declines in low flow conditions (baseflows), were experienced in 57% of streams, compared with a significant decline in storm flow conditions for 22% of streams. The running trend analysis indicated that many of the significant downward trends were not persistent through time but were only significant if recent decades (1987–2016) were included, with an average decline in baseflow and run‐off of 10.90% and 8.28% per decade, respectively. Streams that supported higher native species diversity were associated with moderate discharge and baseflow index, short duration of low flows, and negligible downward trends in flow. A significant decline in dry season flows (May–October) has led to an increase in the number of no‐flow days in drier areas, indicating that more streams may become intermittent, which has important implications for mauka to makai (mountain to ocean) hydrological connectivity and management of Hawai'i's native migratory freshwater fauna.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Long-term streamflow trends in Hawai‘i and implications for native stream fauna
Series title Hydrological Processes
DOI 10.1002/hyp.13356
Volume 33
Issue 5
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, National Climate Adaptation Science Center
Description 21 p.
First page 699
Last page 719
Country United States
State Hawaii
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