Large-scale range collapse of Hawaiian forest birds under climate change and the need 21st Century conservation options
Hawaiian forest birds serve as an ideal group to explore the extent of climate change impacts on at-risk species. Avian malaria constrains many remaining Hawaiian forest bird species to high elevations where temperatures are too cool for malaria's life cycle and its principal mosquito vector. The impact of climate change on Hawaiian forest birds has been a recent focus of Hawaiian conservation biology, and has centered on the links between climate and avian malaria. To elucidate the differential impacts of projected climate shifts on species with known varying niches, disease resistance and tolerance, we use a comprehensive database of species sightings, regional climate projections and ensemble distribu- tion models to project distribution shifts for all Hawaiian forest bird species. We illustrate that, under a likely scenario of continued disease-driven distribution limitation, all 10 species with highly reliable models (mostly narrow-ranged, single-island endemics) are expected to lose > 50% of their range by 2100. Of those, three are expected to lose all range and three others are expected to lose > 90% of their range. Projected range loss was smaller for several of the more widespread species; however improved data and models are necessary to refine future projections. Like other at-risk species, Hawaiian forest birds have specific habi- tat requirements that limit the possibility of range expansion for most species, as projected expansion is frequently in areas where forest habitat is presently not available (such as recent lava flows). Given the large projected range losses for all species, protecting high elevation forest alone is not an adequate long-term strategy for many species under climate change. The authors describe the types of additional conservation actions practitioners will likely need to consider, while providing results to help with such considerations.