- Associated Press - Sunday, July 19, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - Indigenous Hawaiian bird populations could face new challenges posed by global climate change over the next century, according to researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Rising temperatures and increased rainfall could allow mosquitoes to survive at higher elevations, reported the Honolulu Star-Tribune (https://bit.ly/1RHAMUt ). Currently, the isles’ high-elevation forests are a mosquito-free refuge for some birds because the cold temperature acts as a natural barrier to the mosquitoes.

Many threatened bird species can only survive in those areas.

Avian malaria is historically linked to bird extinctions, and a single mosquito bite can transfer the malaria-causing parasites to a vulnerable bird. Researchers say that could result in a death rate as high as 90 percent.

As the climate changes, mosquitoes can invade the previously protected habitations.

“We knew that temperature had a significant effect on mosquitoes and malaria, but we were surprised that rainfall also played an important role,” said Michael Samuel of the USGS Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit.

“Additional rainfall will favor mosquitoes as much as the temperatures change,” he added.

The research team said the expected climate changes will cause native bird communities to decline substantially beginning mid-century unless there is “significant intervention.”

Land managers can help prevent or minimize the damage by restoring and improving bird habitats, reducing mosquitoes on a large scale and controlling predators, said researchers.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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