Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

High resolution lidar data shed light on inter-island translocation of endangered bird species in the Hawaiian Islands

May 22, 2023

Translocation, often a management solution reserved for at-risk species, is a highly time-sensitive intervention in the face of a rapidly changing climate. The definition of abiotic and biotic habitat requirements is essential to the selection of appropriate release sites in novel environments. However, field-based approaches to gathering this information are often too time intensive, especially in areas of complex topography where common, coarse-scale climate models lack essential details. We apply a fine-scale remote sensing-based approach to study the 'akikiki (Oreomystis bairdi) and 'akeke'e (Loxops caeruleirostris), Hawaiian honeycreepers endemic to Kaua'i that are experiencing large-scale population declines due to warming-induced spread of invasive disease. We use habitat suitability modeling based on fine-scale light detection and ranging (lidar)-derived habitat structure metrics to refine coarse climate ranges for these species in candidate translocation areas on Maui. We found that canopy density was consistently the most important variable in defining habitat suitability for the two Kaua'i species. Our models also corroborated known habitat preferences and behavioral information for these species that are essential for informing translocation. We estimated a nesting habitat that will persist under future climate conditions on east Maui of 23.43 km2 for 'akikiki, compared to the current Kaua'i range of 13.09 km2. In contrast, the novel nesting range for 'akeke'e in east Maui was smaller than its current range on Kaua'i (26.29 vs. 38.48 km2, respectively). We were also able to assess detailed novel competitive interactions at a fine scale using models of three endemic Maui species of conservation concern: 'ākohekohe (Palmeria dolei), Maui 'alauahio (Paroreomyza montana), and kiwikiu (Pseudonestor xanthophrys). Weighted overlap areas between the species from both islands were moderate (<12 km2), and correlations between Maui and Kaua'i bird habitat were generally low, indicating limited potential for competition. Results indicate that translocation to east Maui could be a viable option for 'akikiki but would be more uncertain for 'akeke'e. Our novel multifaceted approach allows for the timely analysis of both climate and vegetation structure at informative scales for the effective selection of appropriate translocation sites for at-risk species.

Publication Year 2023
Title High resolution lidar data shed light on inter-island translocation of endangered bird species in the Hawaiian Islands
DOI 10.1002/eap.2889
Authors Erica M. Gallerani, Jeffrey Burgett, Nicolas R. Vaughn, Lucas Fortini, Geoffrey A. Fricker, Hanna L Mounce, Thomas W. Gillespie, Lisa H. Crampton, David Knapp, Justin M. Hite, Roy Gilb
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecological Applications
Index ID 70247515
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center