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Hawaiian Paradise Under Threat: 50th State Faces Alarming Rate of Species Extinction, Tops U.S. Charts

More Species Vanishing in Hawaii Than Any Other State
Source: MEGA

Hawaii's po'ouli bird was declared extinct in 2023.

Jan. 25 2024, Published 1:04 p.m. ET

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In spite of its appealing warmth in January and year-round exotic allure, Hawaii grapples with a severe issue that threatens its unique biodiversity.

The "Aloha State" bids farewell to more species than any other U.S. state, with the extinction of eight bird species in 2023 alone. The situation is alarming, as nearly one-third of all creatures on the Endangered Species List are concentrated in Hawaii, as revealed by a recent analysis.

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The plight extends to seemingly inconspicuous creatures like snails, once abundant in hundreds of varieties in Hawaii. However, the loss of hundreds of snail species in recent decades, with around 100 more at risk, poses a significant threat to Hawaii's ecosystems.

Ken Hayes, a researcher at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, said, “If we lose snails, we’re probably screwed,” emphasizing the critical role snails play in recycling nutrients that maintain the state's lush forests, Vox reported.

Unfortunately, Hawaii itself bears some responsibility for the decline of snails. The introduction of the wolfsnail in the 1950s, intended to eliminate a non-native snail, backfired and contributed to the erosion of various species.

Human presence in Hawaii since the 1700s further disrupted the environment, with mainland creatures causing havoc for indigenous species. Cats, rodents and disease-carrying mosquitoes have particularly impacted forest bird populations, leading to the disappearance of nearly half of Hawaii's unique bird species.

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Some refer to Hawaii as the "extinction capital of the world," although efforts to enforce the Endangered Species Act have provided some protection for rare birds.

Climate change, which has caused warmer temperatures in Hawaii, exacerbates the problem, allowing mosquitoes to thrive at higher elevations and target previously safe species. Additionally, El Niño weather patterns are reducing rainfall, compounding the challenges faced by Hawaii's delicate ecosystems.

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In response, scientists have implemented measures like "snail jails" in Hawaii's forests, designed to keep out dangerous species with electric wires.

More than 100 conservation groups are urging Congress to boost funding for the full enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, claiming that current funding is only at around 50%.

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Contrastingly, in 2023, scientists in California and London celebrated the discovery of nearly 1,000 new species, though some were already extinct, including certain types of dinosaurs, CNN reported.

Notably, the year marked a significant discovery of 619 new wasp species, reported by the Natural History Museum in London, predominantly in Costa Rica. Despite preconceptions, these wasps play a crucial role in pest control in Africa, potentially saving 300 million residents from starvation, according to Dr. John Noyes.

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