Mapping plant species ranges in the Hawaiian Islands: developing a methodology and associated GIS layers

Open-File Report 2012-1192
Prepared in cooperation with the Hawai′i Cooperative Studies Unit, University of Hawai′i at Hilo
By: , and 



This report documents a methodology for projecting the geographic ranges of plant species in the Hawaiian Islands. The methodology consists primarily of the creation of several geographic information system (GIS) data layers depicting attributes related to the geographic ranges of plant species. The most important spatial-data layer generated here is an objectively defined classification of climate as it pertains to the distribution of plant species. By examining previous zonal-vegetation classifications in light of spatially detailed climate data, broad zones of climate relevant to contemporary concepts of vegetation in the Hawaiian Islands can be explicitly defined. Other spatial-data layers presented here include the following: substrate age, as large areas of the island of Hawai'i, in particular, are covered by very young lava flows inimical to the growth of many plant species; biogeographic regions of the larger islands that are composites of multiple volcanoes, as many of their species are restricted to a given topographically isolated mountain or a specified group of them; and human impact, which can reduce the range of many species relative to where they formerly were found. Other factors influencing the geographic ranges of species that are discussed here but not developed further, owing to limitations in rendering them spatially, include topography, soils, and disturbance. A method is described for analyzing these layers in a GIS, in conjunction with a database of species distributions, to project the ranges of plant species, which include both the potential range prior to human disturbance and the projected present range. Examples of range maps for several species are given as case studies that demonstrate different spatial characteristics of range. Several potential applications of species-range maps are discussed, including facilitating field surveys, informing restoration efforts, studying range size and rarity, studying biodiversity, managing invasive species, and planning of conservation efforts.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Mapping plant species ranges in the Hawaiian Islands: developing a methodology and associated GIS layers
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2012-1192
DOI 10.3133/ofr20121192
Year Published 2012
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
Description Report: iv, 34 p.; PDF Appendixes: table guide, species guide; Downloads Directory (zipped packages)
Country United States
State Hawai'i
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details