Maui News –
The National Park Service has released a new short film called “Drawing Connections: Haleakala National Park,” which sheds light on how climate change is impacting the park’s most critically endangered species, Hawaiian honeycreepers.
With only 17 species remaining, some with fewer than 500 individuals left, honeycreepers are a unique group of forest birds found only in Hawaii that once encompassed more than 50 species.
The National Park Service said in a news release that avian malaria, a disease transmitted by invasive Culex mosquitoes, is driving the extinction of forest birds in Hawaii; a single bite by an infected mosquito can kill an ‘i’iwi.
“It is becoming very clear that the changing climate patterns are now allowing disease-carrying mosquitoes to reach our native forest birds at the highest elevations that they occur,” said Chris Warren, forest bird biologist at Haleakala National Park. “This is no longer a matter of disease simply limiting the range of these birds.”
As the climate warms, mosquitoes carrying avian malaria are moving upslope into the last refugia for Hawaii’s forest birds.
“We are on the brink of losing a number of species in the next few years as a direct result of changing temperature and precipitation patterns,” Warren said. “If we cannot control avian malaria and its mosquito vector, we will lose these species, and my heart breaks to say that.”
To watch the film and learn more about climate change and forest birds, visit www.nps .gov/hale/learn/nature/saving-our-forest-birds.htm.
To learn more about climate change impacts in national parks, visit www.nps.gov/subjects/climatechange/index.htm.