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Changing Climate in Hawaii Affects the Mountains

January 12, 2014
climate change in mountains

Original artwork by R. Mason

Higher elevations on some Hawaiian Islands keep many native species healthy thanks to cooler temperatures that are less hospitable to the many non-native species that have invaded Hawaii. Many of these last mountain refuges are threatened by climate change. As the environment warms, an upslope migration of non-native and invasive plants, insects, and other animals is occurring.

In Hawaii Volcanoes NP, for example, Argentine ants and coqui frogs will be able to gradually move upslope as the climate warms. Collectively, they eat a tremendous amount of insects which some native plants depend on for pollination. Invasive plant species may also out-compete native species at higher elevations as the climate changes to conditions where native species are not well adapted.

Average temperatures on Pacific islands have risen by 0.5°F over the past century. In Hawaii, temperatures at higher elevations are now increasing by nearly this rate every decade. If this trend continues, Hawaii’s last, best refuge for native species will be lost.

This Week’s  MYTH  Buster: “Isn’t climate change a natural process?”

Earth’s temperature fluctuates naturally over tens of thousands to millions of years. Scientists take these fluctuations into account when they assert that we are currently experiencing unique conditions in Earth’s history. And humans are the cause.

I Will Make a Difference: by composting my food waste.

More on the NPS and climate change

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