Expanding a Dynamic Model of Species Vulnerability to Climate Change for Hawai`i and Other Pacific Island Ecosystems

Lucas Fortini
Posted on: 7/18/2022 - Updated on: 7/17/2023

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The Hawaiian Islands are home to a variety of native species that have been subject to numerous threats including development of habitat for human use, predation by introduced herbivores, and competition with invasive plant species. In addition to these threats global climate change is expected to increase temperature and alter patterns of precipitation in Hawaii. This project models the relative vulnerability of native plant species to the effects of climate change, in order to assist resource managers in effectively allocating limited resources to efficiently preserve and protect current and future habitat for native plants.

We modeled vulnerability by creating an expert system – a network model linking biological traits of various plant species with the projected changes in species ranges under the effect of climate change. A panel of experts in Hawaiian plant species participated in the model design, identifying factors expected to affect a species’ ability to successfully respond to climate change. Once the model results were available, this same panel verified that the model results agreed with their own expert opinion on a sample of species with which they were familiar.

The results are relative vulnerability scores for 1,056 native Hawaiian plant species. Due to limitations of the modeling process and the available data, the exact vulnerability scores are less important than the general ranking, and can be used to identify categories of species with high, middle, and low vulnerability to climate change.


Fortini, L. (2016). Expanding a Dynamic Model of Species Vulnerability to Climate Change for Hawaii and Other Pacific Island Ecosystems. Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center.

Affiliated Organizations

The USGS is a science organization that provides impartial information on the health of our ecosystems and environment, the natural hazards that threaten us, the natural resources we rely on, the impacts of climate and land-use change, and the core science systems that help us provide timely, relevant, and useable information.

Established in 2012, the Pacific Islands CASC (PI-CASC) provides regionally-relevant scientific information, tools, and techniques to resource managers and communities in Hawai'i and the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands.

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