Changing Climate in Hawaii Affects Plants

Pacific Island National Parks

Hawaii is home to a truly unique group of native plants that evolved from a few ancestral species to over 1,000 plant species. Due to habitat destruction and the competition from non-native species, many of these plants are threatened or endangered. Climate change presents a new threat. As rainfall and vegetation patterns change across the islands, aggressive invasive plants often have a competitive advantage over native plants. For example, when a landscape becomes drier it becomes more susceptible to fires. Once a fire has ravaged an area, fire tolerant invasive grasses like fountain grass moves in and dominates an area that might otherwise be covered by native species.

Another way in which native plants suffer from climate change involves elevation and mauka (mountain) forests. Most invasive plant species are well adapted to warmer, lower elevations. Through the years, many native plants have conversely maintained cooler mountain strongholds. Mauka temperatures in…

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