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Large-scale tree mortality from Rapid Ohia Death negatively influences avifauna in lower Puna, Hawai‘i Island, USA

May 6, 2019

‘Ōhi’a lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) is the principle tree species in forests across the Hawaiian Islands and provides critical foraging and nesting habitat for native passerines. Rapid Ohia Death (ROD), caused by the vascular wilt fungus Ceratocystis lukuohia and the canker pathogen C. huliohia, was first detected in the Puna District of Hawaii Island in 2010. It affects all life stages of ‘ōhi’a and as of July 2018 had spread to an estimated 40,469 ha across Hawaii Island. To determine the impact of ROD on the forest bird community we conducted point counts in lowland ‘ōhi’a forest in 2016 and compared them to counts from 2003 to 2004, before the appearance of ROD. We found an increase in species diversity and a significant decrease in the densities of a native Hawaiian honeycreeper, the Hawaii Amakihi (Chlorodrepanus virens), and the nonnative Japanese White-eye (Zosterops japonicus). Yellow-fronted Canary (Crithagra mozambica) and Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola), 2 nonnative passerines associated with the shrub layer and more open habitats, were only detected in 2016. Proportion of survey points occupied were comparable between survey periods, but relative abundances were generally lower. Hawaii Amakihi densities declined by 79% and Japanese White-eye densities declined by 33%. Our findings suggest that the loss of ‘ōhi’a canopy due primarily to ROD has adversely affected populations of native Hawaii Amakihi and nonnative Japanese White-eye, 2 of the most abundant species of lowland Hawaiian forests.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2019
Title Large-scale tree mortality from Rapid Ohia Death negatively influences avifauna in lower Puna, Hawai‘i Island, USA
DOI 10.1093/condor/duz007
Authors Richard J. Camp, Dennis Lapointe, Patrick J. Hart, Daniel E Sedgwick, Lisa K Canale
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Condor
Series Number
Index ID 70216530
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center