350 home Browse by region Browse by taxon Browse alphabetically Take action


Agassiz's coral (Cyphastrea agassizi)
Range: Indo-West Pacific and Western Central Pacific
Once found in massive colonies, Agassiz’s coral — also known as lesser knob coral — has become increasingly rare throughout its rather wide natural range. The Agassiz’s coral, like all corals, is threatened by climate change in the form of ocean acidification and warming waters. Due to warming ocean temperatures, corals are already suffering from frequent mass bleaching events that lead to widespread coral death and higher risk of disease. Ocean acidification is already hindering some corals from building their skeletons, and all corals are predicted to dissolve at carbon dioxide levels of 560 parts per million. Scientists have said that carbon dioxide must be reduced to 350 ppm or below to protect corals.

In 2009, the Center filed a scientific petition to list 83 corals, including the Agassiz’s coral, under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming.
A`kiapola a`u (Hemignathus munroi)
Range: Island of Hawai`i
The woodpecker-like hammering of this endangered, bright yellow honeycreeper can be heard only in the forests of the island of Hawai`i. This bird’s bill is adapted for the demanding task of hammering on large branches of koa and mamane trees to hunt for insects, using its down-curved upper bill to probe and its strait, stout lower bill to excavate. Habitat destruction from logging and grazing have severely reduced a`kiapola a`u populations.

As climate change causes temperatures to increase in Hawai`i’s mountains, deadly nonnative bird diseases, including avian malaria and pox, will likely also creep up the mountains, invading most of the last disease-free refuges for the a`kiapola a`u.
Kauai creeper (Paroreomyza montana)
Range: Kauai

The Kauai creeper, or akikiki, is a small endangered bird in the Hawaii honeycreeper subfamily with a grey back and white belly. Once found in many parts of Kauai, this four-inch, finch-like bird has been pushed back due to disease transmission. Its populations were also devastated by two strong hurricanes that came through its island home back in the 1980s and 1990s. Climate change is likely to combine with past land-use changes and biological invasions to drive several of the remaining species of Hawaii’s native birds to extinction, especially on the islands of Kauai and Hawaii. As climate change causes temperatures to increase in Hawaii’s mountains, deadly nonnative bird diseases, including avian malaria and pox, will likely creep up the mountains, invading disease-free creeper refuges.

In 2004, the Center and allies petitioned to safeguard 225 species that had been languishing unprotected as "candidates" for Endangered Species Act listing, including the akikiki. In 2008, the federal government proposed to protect the bird as well as 47 other Kauai species.

A`kohekohe (crested honeycreeper) (Palmeria dolei)
Range: northeastern slope of Haleakala Volcano on island of Maui
Already extirpated from the island of Moloka'i, this beautiful honeycreeper is known for its decorative plumage and for aggressively defending its remaining territory — the canopy of high-elevation rainforest on Maui's Haleakala Volcano. In addition to habitat destruction from feral pigs and invasive plants, the a'kohekohe faces a higher disease risk due to climate change. As temperatures increase in Maui’s mountains, mosquitoes carrying deadly nonnative bird diseases, including avian malaria and pox, are projected to creep up the mountains and eliminate much of the a'kohekohe’s remaining disease-free forest habitat.
`Alala (Hawaiian crow) (Corvus hawaiiensis)
Range: Endemic to western and southern dry forests of the island of Hawai`i; extinct in the wild
The Hawaiian crow, which once roamed Hawai`i’s dry forests in raucous flocks, is now one of the most critically endangered birds in the world. The species became extinct in the wild in 2002, and in 2008 totaled only 56 individuals in two captive breeding facilities on Hawai`i and Maui. The `alala declined due to habitat destruction from logging, agriculture, and feral pigs, predation by nonnative rats and mongoose, and introduced diseases, including toxoplasmosis, avian malaria, and pox. Efforts to reintroduce captive birds into the wild have not been successful.

Deadly nonnative bird diseases, including avian malaria and pox, will likely increase as climate change causes temperatures to rise in Hawai`i’s mountains, eliminating disease-free forest habitat.
Diamond head schiedea (Schiedea adamantis)
Range: Hawaii
This small shrub is found only on the rim of Diamond Head Crater on the Hawaiian island of O`ahu, in an area approximately 36 by 72 feet. Diamond Head schiedea was first collected in 1955 and described as a new species in 1970. Though it normally withstands harsh conditions – strong winds, high light intensity, low precipitation, and high temperatures – since 1988, unusually prolonged drought conditions have decimated the Schiedea population. From the 200 individuals once counted, only two plants are known to survive – though a few more may recover with increased precipitation.

This range-restricted plant is vulnerable to extended drought over a several-year period, which could result in high mortality and extinction for the species despite its adaptation to dry lowland conditions. Seedlings are very vulnerable to desiccation, and adults may also suffer high mortality due to a sequence of dry years.
Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)
Range: Worldwide distribution in tropical and subtropical waters
The green sea turtle is one of the oldest sea turtles studied; in fact, much knowledge about sea turtle ecology comes from studies of this species. Green sea turtles’ common name derives from the green fat underneath their shells. Like other sea turtles, over their average lifespan of 80 years, they migrate long distances between feeding grounds and hatching beaches. Sea turtles spend almost all their lives submerged but must breathe air, routinely diving for about five minutes and surfacing to breathe for one to three seconds. They can sleep underwater for several hours, but their ability to hold their breath is affected by activity and stress, which is why turtles drown in fishing gear within a relatively short time. Global warming threatens the green sea turtle in several ways: Rising sea levels may inundate nesting beaches; increased sand temperatures can lead to changes in the sex ratio of hatchling turtles; warming ocean temperatures are leading to mass coral bleaching, damaging reef habitats where turtles feed; and changes in ocean currents can alter turtle migrations paths and feeding patterns.

The Center takes to court to defend the green sea turtle and other sea turtle species from longline fishing through our Fisheries Campaign.
Hawaii a’kepa (Loxops coccineus coccineus)
Range: Hawaii Island
A’kepas are small, active Hawaiian honeycreepers with black wings and black tails that sharply contrast with their bright orange bodies. A’kepas are known for very unusual bills: The lower mandible, bent to one side, is used to open leaf and flower buds. A’kepas are also known for their breeding behavior: Males perform large, group displays, even though these birds are monogamous. Tragically, the Hawaii a’kepa is already extinct on several of the Hawaiian islands. The Maui subspecies is extremely endangered or extinct, and the Oahu subspecies is now extinct.

One of the biggest threats to Hawaii’s amazing native birds is avian malaria. Higher altitudes, where temperate mosquitoes that carry the virus cannot survive, have been an oasis for these birds. But as global warming raises temperatures at higher altitudes, these mosquitoes could devastate A’kepas by spreading the deadly malaria.
Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinsland)
Range: Throughout Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, with an increasing population on the main islands
The Hawaiian monk seal, known to native Hawaiians as ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua, or “dog that runs in rough water,” now faces much worse conditions than choppy waves. Thanks to threats like limited food availability, entanglement in fishing gear, predation, and disease, this federally endangered seal has seen dramatic population declines in the last half-century that have left it one of the world’s most imperiled marine mammals. Add to those threats the ever-worsening effects of global warming — which interferes with delicate marine ecosystems and causes sea-level rise that endangers seal pupping beaches — and it’s no surprise that the Hawaiian monk seal’s population is expected to plunge to less than 1,000 animals in the next few years.

The Center petitioned to grant the seal protected habitat on the main Hawaiian islands — and in June 2009, the Obama administration agreed to do so, in addition to expanding protections in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
Range: Tropical reefs of the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans
The critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle is the only species in its genus. Its distinguishing feature: the sharp, curving, beak-like mouth from which it gets its common name. Its chosen prey includes sea sponges, which are highly toxic and can be lethal when eaten by other creatures — but not for the hawksbill. Human fishing practices and the use of hawskbill shells for tortoiseshell trinkets have resulted in the hawksbill facing the possibility of extinction. Global warming threatens the hawksbill in several ways: Rising sea levels may inundate nesting beaches; increased sand temperatures can lead to changes in the sex ratio of hatchling turtles; warming ocean temperatures are leading to mass coral bleaching, damaging reef habitats where turtles feed; and changes in ocean current can alter turtle migrations paths and feeding patterns.

The Center works hard to stop longline fishing practices that ensnare the hawksbill and other sea turtles.
Human being (Homo sapiens)
Range: Global
Homo sapiens, the Latin name for the modern human species, means “wise man.” Modern humans evolved in east Africa about 200,000 years ago. As of 2009, there are more than 6.8 billion of us on Earth. Humans have a highly developed brain, capable of abstract reasoning, language, introspection and problem solving, but can they put these qualities to use when it comes to the man-made challenge posed by global warming?

Health and climate scientists believe that global warming is already responsible for some 150,000 deaths each year, and they fear that the number may well double by 2030. Global warming also contributes to some 5 million human illnesses every year. Some of the ways global warming negatively affects human health — especially in poorer nations — include: speeding the spread of infectious diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever; creating conditions that lead to potentially fatal malnutrition and diarrhea; and increasing the frequency and severity of heat waves, floods, and other weather-related disasters. Studies have also found a direct link between rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and increased human mortality. Added air pollution caused by each degree Celsius increase in temperature caused by CO2 leads to about 1,000 additional deaths in the United States and many more cases of respiratory illness and asthma.
Koki’o (Kokia drynarioides)
Range: Leeward side of the island of Hawaii
The koki’o tree can grow up to eight meters tall and has beautiful, large, ornamental scarlet flowers. The sap of this rare tree has been used by native Hawaiians to make red dyes, and its bark was used to treat thrush. There are now fewer than 10 trees known to exist in the wild. These few remaining koki’o occur at sites with very similar precipitation and temperature characteristics. As rain patterns and temperatures change due to climate change, it may become increasingly difficult for this tree to find suitable sites for regeneration, and climate change may even threaten the remaining trees.

The loss of the koki’o may have had severe impacts on organisms that rely on the species, such as the now-endangered nectar-drinking honeycreepers, which depend on these trees for food. The koki’o tree was listed as endangered in 1984.
Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis)
Range: Breeds on oceanic islands in tropical and subtropical Pacific Ocean, mainly Northwestern Hawaiian Islands; forages in North Pacific Ocean
Laysan albatrosses mate for life and attract their partners in a complex courtship dance complete with sky calling, wing flapping, and bill fencing. This elegantly plumaged albatross was nearly decimated by feather hunters in the early 1900s. Today, major threats come from commercial longline fisheries, which hook and drown thousands of birds each year; contaminated feeding and nesting grounds; and climate change. On Midway Island, up to 10,000 Laysan albatross each year are poisoned when they eat lead-based paint chips that peel off the deteriorating military buildings near their nest sites. Many chicks develop a condition called droopwing, which prevents them from lifting their wings and leads to death by starvation and dehydration. Because most of the world’s Laysan albatrosses nest on the low-lying islands of the Northwestern Hawaiian Island chain, sea-level rise and higher storm surge caused by climate change threaten to drown nests.
Laysan duck (Anas laysanensis)
Range: Laysan and Midway islands in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Sometimes called the rarest native waterfowl in the United States, the Laysan duck once lived across the entire Hawaiian island archipelago, but today survives on just three isolated islands. This bird’s decline began 1,000 to 1,600 years ago, with the arrival of humans. By 1860, it had disappeared from all but Laysan Island, most likely due to rat predation. Laysan Island gained federal protection in 1909, but introduced rabbits brought the duck to the brink of extinction in 1912, when the species hit an all-time low of seven adults, including a single female. This duck’s low-lying island homes are especially vulnerable to sea-level rise and extreme weather, including severe storms and drought associated with global warming.
Laysan finch (Telespiza cantans)
Range: Laysan Island and Pearl and Hermes Reef in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Most of the world’s Laysan finches inhabit only one remote, low-lying island in the northwestern Hawaiian island chain — Laysan Island. Introduced rabbits devoured the island’s vegetation, and the Laysan finch plummeted to low numbers until the rabbits died off in 1923. The finch nests in vegetation, laying three eggs in a cup-shaped nest. It’s a generalist feeder, eating seeds, small insects, fruit, and even carrion and the eggs of nesting seabirds. This bird’s highly restricted range and vulnerability to extreme weather have led to its endangered status. The finch’s low-lying island homes are especially vulnerable to sea-level rise and extreme weather associated with climate change.
Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
Range: All tropical and subtropical oceans, as far south as the southernmost tip of New Zealand and as far north as the Arctic Circle
As ancient as the dinosaurs, leatherback sea turtles are the heaviest reptiles on the planet. In addition to longlines and gillnets, these remarkable creatures face the threat of global warming. Rising sea levels, increased sand temperatures, and stronger storms threaten the sandy beaches the turtles use to nest. Shifting currents may alter the ocean’s upwelling patterns, which turtles depend on for food. And because turtles lack sex chromosomes, their genes don‘t determine whether a hatchling is male or female. Instead, buried eggs take their cue from the ambient temperature. With a mere two-degree increase over 29 degrees Celsius, a nest will produce all females — a few degrees higher, and eggs won‘t hatch at all. To maintain a viable breeding population, a cool, male-producing year must come at least once every five to 10 years.

Since leatherbacks are particularly imperiled in the Pacific Ocean, in 2007 the Center petitioned to obtain critical habitat for leatherbacks off California and Oregon. In 2009, we filed a notice of intent to sue to speed habitat protection.
Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)
Range: Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans
Loggerhead sea turtles make some of the longest known journeys of any sea turtle species, each year migrating more than 7,500 miles between nesting beaches in Japan and feeding grounds off the coast of Mexico. Along the way, they must navigate past millions of longline hooks, which catch and kill thousands of sea turtles, seabirds, marine mammals, and sharks. Gillnet fisheries likewise entangle and drown many loggerheads. Making matters much worse, rising sea levels due to global warming threaten to destroy Florida’s nesting beaches, and rising temperatures could dramatically tilt the balance of male and female turtles being hatched, endangering the species’ reproductive abilities. This is because turtles’ gender is determined by temperature; in warmer weather, there are fewer males born, and with a temperature just two degrees higher than 29 degrees Celsius, almost all hatchlings are females.

The Center has repeatedly litigated to curtail commercial fishing practices harming the loggerhead. Following one lawsuit, longline fishing for swordfish was prohibited along the West Coast. In 2007, we petitioned to list North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles as endangered, as well as to increase protections in key nesting habitat.
Maui parrotbill (Pseudonestor xanthophrys)
Range: Maui
So much of the Maui parrotbill’s habitat has been so destroyed that today it can only be found in 19 square miles of mesic and wet forests at 3,900–7,100 feet on the windward slopes of Haleakala on the island of Maui. The total population of this finch in the honeycreeper family is estimated at just 500, making it critically endangered. It’s named for its distinctive, large beak, which it uses along with its powerful jaw muscles to remove bark and wood from small trees, eating the insects underneath, and to bite open fruits in search of insects.

Mosquitoes spread avian malaria, to which the parrotbill is susceptible. With global warming, temperatures at high elevations will rise, enabling malaria-infected mosquitoes to survive at higher elevations and infect critically endangered native Hawaiian birds like the parrotbill, further jeopardizing their already reduced chance at survival.
North Pacific right whale (Eubalaena japonica)
Range: Sightings generally occur in mouth of the Sea of Okhotsk and in eastern Bering Sea
Whalers named the North Pacific right whale thinking that these were the “right whales” to kill because they’re slow swimmers, they swim within sight of shore, and their carcasses float. Thus it’s no surprise that, though once abundant, the North Pacific right whale is now the most endangered whale in the world, with likely fewer than 50 individuals left today. With the melting of sea ice due to climate change, the food web in the Bering Sea — the North Pacific right whale’s summering grounds — is changing dramatically. The combined effects of ocean warming and ocean acidification may reduce the abundance of the right whale’s plankton prey. And increasing offshore oil development and shipping activity in increasingly ice-free Arctic waters heightens threats from oil spills and ship strikes.

In 2000, the Center formally requested that the National Marine Fisheries Service protect the whale’s critical habitat. After years of inaction, the Center sued, and eventually, the Fisheries Service designated critical habitat in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.
O`ahu `elepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis ibidis)
Range: O`ahu, Hawaii
An endangered bird that makes its home on the Hawaiian island of O`ahu, the O`ahu `elepaio was once the most common land bird on the island. The small brown bird, with its perky, streaked tail, favors lush forests with tall canopies. A member of the monarch flycatcher family, the O`ahu elepaio mates for life and remains on the island year-round. Only 1,982 birds are thought to remain, their numbers decimated by mosquito-born diseases, predation by introduced mammals, and habitat loss as O`ahu went from deep forest to tourism capital. Warming ocean currents may precipitate more frequent and severe storms, which can destroy elepaio nests. Rising temperatures from climate change might enable the transmission of pox and malaria at higher elevations, further threatening remaining populations of these and other endangered birds.
Oceanic Hawaiian damselfly (Megalagrion oceanicum)
Range: Koolau Mountains on Oahu, Hawaii
The beautiful oceanic Hawaiian damselfly is one of 23 damselfly species on the Hawaiian Islands, endemic to the island of Oahu. Damselflies begin life as an egg, soon hatching into a predacious naiad that stalks streambanks for other aquatic invertebrates or swims after small fish, and then molts into the mature form. In this last embodiment, the falcon-like damselfly swoops down on other flying insects such as midges. Temperature affects important traits in damselflies, including their developmental rate and the timing of important events like breeding, immune function, and the production of pigment for temperature regulation. Warming temperatures from climate change threaten to stress the oceanic Hawaiian damselfly by affecting these life-history traits and shifting the places of suitable habitat where it can live.

In 2006, the Center filed a lawsuit to force an endangered species listing for the damselfly and hundreds of other species languishing on the candidate list. The damselfly has been on the candidate list for 25 years.
Ocellated coral (Cyphastrea ocellina)
Range: Indo-West Pacific and Central Pacific
Ocellated coral is very closely related to Agassiz’s coral, and is also frequently referred to as lesser knob coral. Ocellated coral has less pronounced polyps than Agassiz’s coral and comes in a wider range of colors. Both ocellated and Agassiz’s corals are particularly susceptible to bleaching and disease because of a restricted depth range. Corals are among the species most threatened by greenhouse gas pollution. Due to warming ocean temperatures, corals are already suffering from frequent mass bleaching events that lead to widespread coral death and higher risk of disease. Ocean acidification is already hindering some corals from building their skeletons, and all corals are predicted to dissolve at carbon dioxide levels of 560 parts per million. Scientists have said that carbon dioxide must be reduced to 350 ppm or below to protect corals.

In 2009, the Center filed a scientific petition to list 83 corals, including ocellated coral, under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming.
Palila (Loxioides bailleui)
Range: Mauna Kea, Hawaii
As early as 1944, scientists believed that the palila was almost extinct The palila is an endangered finch-billed species of Hawaiian honeycreeper that has a close ecological relationship with the māmane tree. It became endangered due to destruction of the trees and accompanying dry forests. Currently, the palila can be found only on the upper slopes of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii in less than 10 percent of its historical range. Climate change poses a threat to the palila because projected rises in regional temperatures and increased precipitation in high-elevation forests would eliminate important areas of remaining habitat where there’s a low risk of malaria development and transmission. Drought is thought to be contributing to the palila’s recent decline, making increases in extreme events such as drought and storms another danger to the species.
Po-o’uli (Melamprosops phaeosoma) (likely extinct)
Range: Historically found in Hawaii
The probably extinct Po-o’uli, or black-faced honeycreeper, wasn’t discovered until 1973 by students from the University of Hawaii, who found the bird on the northeastern slopes of Haleakala. It was the first species of Hawaiian honeycreeper to be discovered since 1923. The name po-o’uli means “dark head,” referring to the bird’s characteristic feature, a black “bandit” mask. This bird’s dramatic population decline has been attributed to habitat loss; mosquito-borne diseases; predation by pigs, rats, cats, and mongooses; and a decline in the native tree snails that the Po-o’uli relies on for food.
Puaiohi (Myadestes palmeri)
Range: Kauai, Hawaii
The Puaiohi, or small Kauai thrush, is a resident of the remote, high-elevation forest on Kauai. It was first collected in 1891 but was the last of Kauai’s avifauna to be documented by ornithologists in 1980. The 1981 Hawaiian Forest Bird Survey found only 13 individuals; in the following year and again in 1992, hurricanes devastated Kauai’s forest bird populations. The Puaiohi survived but remains vulnerable, with most of the population restricted to two areas totaling 10 square kilometers.

This rare bird faces more than one threat from global warming. Due to rapid climate change, catastrophic weather events such as hurricanes are projected to occur with more frequency and intensity. Particularly for animals confined to a limited range, such weather events can wipe out whole populations or even the entire species. Additionally, mosquitoes that carry the deadly avian malaria to Kauai’s lower-elevation birds, but currently can’t survive in the Puaiohi’s cooler high-elevation habitat, may move to higher elevations as temperatures warm.
Uhiuhi (Caesalpinia kavaiensis)
Range: Kaua’I, O’ahu, and Hawaii islands
The Uhiuhi is tree endemic to Hawaiian forests at elevations of 250 to almost 3,000 feet. There are only three populations known to exist, on Kaua’I, O’ahu, and Hawaii. The uhiuhi is a tree that can grow to more than 30 feet tall. The uhiuhi tree once provided native Hawaiians with wood for fishing spears. Abundant in the past, only 32 trees remain, the rest wiped out by cattle grazing, fires, and exotic plants, insects, and rodents.

Global warming could increase the incidence of forest fires that threaten the uhiuhi, and temperature increases may exacerbate insect infestations.