Climate change blamed for collapse of Hawaiian forest birds

Written by: 
Danna Osumo

Native forest birds on Kauai are rapidly dying off and facing the threat of extinction, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser. Climate change is causing the habitat to heat up and allow mosquito-borne diseases to thrive, causing Hawaiian forest birds to decrease in numbers.

Karlos Guiterrez, a psychology freshman from Abu Dhabi, said he hopes more preservation efforts can be put in place to help these birds. “Being here in Hawaii, I have seen so many different types of birds that cannot really be seen where I’m from which shows how important they are,” he said.

Two Hawaiian honeycreeper species — akikiki and akekee — are endangered due to a sharp increase in disease which has occurred over a 15-year period in the upper-elevation forests of Kauai’s Alakai Plateau, a highly eroded crater of an extinct volcano, according to the Star Advertiser.

There are also cultural reasons to care about the study, said Lisa Crampton, a wildlife ecologist and conservation biologist and coordinator for the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project. “If we lose these forest birds, we lose our connection to our past,” he said, adding that they are also vital to Hawaii’s watersheds.

The study is a “signal that we need to do something about global warming and mosquitoes,” said Sam Ohu Gon, senior scientist and cultural adviser for the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii. “It’s only a matter of time before mosquito-borne diseases become commonplace in Hawaii,” he said.

Bailey Jin, a sophomore international cultural studies major from China, was surprised how mosquitos can be a cause of the declination of birds. “We complain about mosquitos and see them everywhere but they can cause much harm to the environment and us through many diseases such as dengue,” said Jin.

“Even though the situation is dire, it’s not too late,” said Crampton. “It’s not hopeless. Individuals’ efforts to reduce their carbon footprint will go a long way. Everything we can do to slow down the rate of climate change is going to help the birds,” she said.

Karlmaine Revillo, a senior studying social work from the Philippines, said, “It is important that we know what we can do to help. Global warming is such a big issue that we may feel overwhelmed.” She said she tries to help the environment by recycling and not littering.

Date Published: 
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Last Edited: 
Wednesday, September 21, 2016