Rising sea levels threaten Hawaiian marine life

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Three-dimensional computer models developed by a group of Hawai’i scientists predict that some of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands could lose as much as 65 percent of their area by the end of the century if sea levels continue to rise.

Most at risk from the habitat loss would be the Hawaiian monk seal, the Laysan finch and the Hawaiian green sea turtle, according to research findings published in the international conservation journal Endangered Species Research.

The study is the first to detail the topography of the islands and evaluate the effect of rising sea levels on native species.

“These little islands are important nurseries for monk seals, sea turtles and millions of seabirds. Yet much of this lively activity occurs just a few meters above sea level,” said Jason Baker of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu, one of the authors of the research.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands