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Changing Climate in Hawaii Affects Streams

December 29, 2013
climate change and streams

Original artwork by R. Mason

Powerful and serene, waterfalls are an iconic feature in Hawaii. Continuously flowing freshwater is, however, rare on islands. In Hawaii, rainfall combines with geographic features (eg., waterfalls) to produce unique ecosystems. Many streams in Hawaii harbor native creatures like oopu that climb steep waterfalls to reach upstream habitats. These special habitats are often a refuge for native stream animals because lower areas are dominated by non-native species.

There is less overall rainfall in Hawaii. Since the 1940’s, the amount of freshwater in Hawaiian streams has measurably declined. These patterns, coupled with warmer air temperatures across the state could increase evapotranspiration, resulting in even less stream flow. If stream flow is reduced to the point of absence or stagnation in upper reaches, there will be severe impacts to this native animal refuge.

Native stream species are not the only concern. Compromised groundwater and stream discharge poses a threat to the plants, animals, and even the reefs in coastal areas. People depend on freshwater too.

This Week’s MYTH  Buster:  “Climate change isn’t affecting us.”

We are seeing impacts in many places around the world. The most dramatic are visible in northernmost latitudes, along the coasts, and in high-elevation habitats. Many fragile ecosystems and resources in these places are in danger of disappearing forever.

I Will Make a Difference: by turning my car engine off while idling.

More on the NPS and climate change

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  1. Changing Climate in Hawaii Affects Streams | The Fellows' Ship

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