December 11, 2009--Already dangerously rare, Hawaii's akikiki is one of ten already endangered U.S. species that are under added threat from global warming, according to a December 2009 report by the Endangered Species Coalition, an advocacy network based in Washington, D.C.
"Global warming is like a bulldozer shoving species, already on the brink of extinction, perilously closer to the edge of existence," said Leda Huta, the coalition's executive director, in a statement.
For the akikiki--listed as critically endangered by the international Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)--the edge is closer than for most species, as it lives on only the island of Kauai. The bird was once common in the uplands, where it was largely left alone while many lowland forests became cane fields and golf courses.
But as global warming heats up mountain habitats--home to roughly 20 percent of all species, according to Duke University conservation ecologist Stuart Pimm--plants and animals will be forced upward into ever shrinking space until they run out of room.
"There is a big group of species that are going to have their ranges shrunk by global warming," said Pimm, who was not involved in the new report.
"And the thing that worries me a great deal is that, from what I can see, global warming is going to kill off a different set of species than those killed off by habitat destruction. It's going to be a group of species that up to now have done reasonably well at the hands of human intervention.