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Climate change threats to Hawaiian tree impact birds, too

Cara J

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On the Big Island of Hawaii, hundreds of thousands of ‘ohi’a trees, whose scarlet blooms color the archipelago and sustain many endemic nectar-feeding birds, are swiftly succumbing to a fungal disease. Now biologists have discovered that the fate of the ‘ohi’a (Metrosideros polymorpha) and the birds that depend on its flowers are even more uncertain due to climate change. “This study showing how ‘ohi’a phenology is connected to climatic cycles and how important ‘ohi’a flower resources are to birds shows we need to start thinking of outside-the-box solutions to conserve not just ‘ohi’a but also native bird species,” said Jared Wolfe, first author on the paper published in Ecology. A research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, Wolfe and his colleagues investigated data collected between 1976 and 1982 at a 40-acre site on Keauhou Ranch, just north of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii. “To start teasing apart associations between climate, plant phenology and bird communities,” Wolfe said, they analyzed precipitation and other climatic factors, flower and fruit numbers and the reproduction and abundance of endemic birds — including the nectar-eating ‘i’iwi (Vestiaria coccinea) and ‘apapane (Himatione sanguinea). “Wet seasons would trigger flowering among ‘ohi’a, and the [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/climate-change-threats-to-hawaiian-tree-impact-birds-too/

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