Current changes in alpine ecosystems of Pacific Islands

Abby G. Frazier, Laura Brewington

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Alpine ecosystems in the Pacific Islands are isolated and unique, characterized by high levels of endemism. Only Hawai'i and New Zealand have elevations high enough to contain substantial alpine climates, and about 11% of the land area of both island groups is located above treeline. Both of these volcanically active archipelagos are characterized by complex topography, with peaks over 3700 m. These alpine ecosystems have significant cultural, social, and economic value; however, they are threatened by invasion of exotic species, climate change, and human impacts. Nonnative ungulates reduce native shrubland and grassland cover, and threaten populations of endangered birds. Exotic plants alter water yields and increase fire risk, and increased recreational visitation to these remote areas facilitates the introduction of exotic plant seeds, pests, and pathogens. Both New Zealand and Hawai'i have experienced strong warming at higher elevations, and future projections indicate that these robust warming trends will continue. Glacial retreat has been noted in the Southern Alps, with 34% ice volume lost since 1977, and New Zealand may lose 88% of its ice volume by 2100. Snowfall on Hawai'i's mountain peaks is projected to almost entirely disappear by 2100. Changes are occurring rapidly, and additional monitoring and research are needed to conserve these uniquely sensitive, remote regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIslands and Atolls - Life in and Surrounded by Water
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780128160978
ISBN (Print)9780128160961
StatePublished - Jun 26 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)


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