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Syst Biol. 2002 Apr;51(2):276-302.

Patterns of endangerment in the hawaiian flora.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California-Irvine, Irvine, California 92697, USA. aksakai@uci.edu

Abstract

The Hawaiian flora, because of its great isolation, high levels of endemism, known lineages, and high rates of endangerment, offers unique opportunities to explore patterns of endangerment related to phylogeny, ecological and life history traits, and geographic patterns. Nine percent of the native flora of 1159 taxa are already extinct, and 52.5% are at risk (extinct, endangered, vulnerable, or rare). Risk is strongly associated with limited geographic distribution at several scales: endemic taxa (native only to the Hawaiian Islands) are at far greater risk than indigenous taxa (with both Hawaiian and extra-Hawaiian ranges); single-island endemics are more at risk than multi-island endemics; small islands have the highest proportion of endemic taxa at risk; and endemics with more limited habitat distributions (elevation, community type) are more at risk. Historic population density is a strong predictor of risk, and taxa with low historic population densities are at greatest risk with rapid anthropogenic changes. Among the major islands, Maui Nui has the highest percent of taxa that are extinct. Kaua'i has the lowest percent of extinct taxa and the highest proportion of single-island endemic taxa that are rare. Endemic taxa at risk are associated with distributions in shrublands, forests, bogs, and cliff habitats. Endemic taxa with distributions in low elevation dry habitats have the highest proportion of taxa at risk, but the greatest absolute numbers of taxa at risk have distributions in mesic lowland and montane forests, and in wet montane forests. The life history patterns associated with risk are complicated, and inclusion of the effects of evolutionary relationships (lineages) changes some of these patterns. Species level analyses without respect to lineage shows risk associated with monomorphic (hermaphroditic) breeding systems and bird pollination because of the large number of hermaphroditic, bird-pollinated species in the Campanulaceae. Analyses incorporating the effect of lineage greatly reduce the impact of large lineages and result in an association of risk with insect pollination, and no effect of breeding system. There is no association of lineage size and the percent of taxa at risk within the lineage; endemic taxa from lineages with large radiations are at no greater risk than endemic single-taxon lineages. The percentages of taxa at risk at the family level in the Hawaiian Islands and worldwide (excluding Hawaiian taxa) are positively correlated, although flowering plant families in the Hawaiian Islands have a much greater proportion of taxa at risk. Some of the approaches described here may be useful to predict geographical and biological patterns of endangerment in island and island-like ecosystems under increasing pressures of endangerment and extinction.

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