Understanding the response of native and non-native forests to climate variability and change


The native forests of Hawaiʻi are of vital importance ecologically as well as culturally. However, even protected forests are threatened by the spread of invasive species and the effects of changing climate. Information about projected changes in forest ecosystems can allow resource managers to plan restoration and monitoring strategies more effectively. Our environmental data and climate change models project that both native and invaded forests will show higher water consumption but slower growth for much of the year. This may suggest reduced vigor overall, which could have a disastrous impact on native ʻŌhiʻa forests. The possibility of increased water use by invasive forest plant species may have an effect on future water groundwater recharge and streamflow. In the future, in areas where cloudiness is projected to decrease (roughly the same as areas where rainfall is projected to decrease), managing to limit invasion might have beneficial consequences regarding water.

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This research feature was produced by the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center.

Featured photo: ʻŌhiʻa Lehua blossoms. Photo by University of Hawaiʻi News/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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