Climate change threatens biodiversity all around the world, but the rarest and most specialized species are often the first to feel its effects. According to a press release from Eurekalert, a recent study warns that some of the rarest bird species in Hawaii face the loss of up to 50 percent of their natural habitat due to rising air temperatures.
Birds living in the island state’s mountainous regions will be hit the worst. According to a study published in PLOS ONE by Lucas Fortini, a researcher from the U.S. Geological Survey, some species may lose half of their forest habitats by the end of the century.
Hawaiian forest birds face threats from habitat loss and disease. The upper reaches of Hawaii’s peaks are secluded and untouched, allowing for a robust forest ecosystem that supports a wide range of rare and fragile species. But as temperatures rise, mosquito-borne diseases like avian malaria threaten the majority of these populations.
The threat from disease as a result of increasing island air temperatures could affect up to 20 species of birds in Hawaii’s mountain forests. According to Dr. Fortini, “As dire as these findings are, they do not mean that these bird species are doomed. Instead, our findings indicate what may happen if nothing is done to address the primary drivers of decline: disease spreading uphill into the few remaining refuges.”