Hawaii is the most geographically isolated land mass in the world! What does that mean for the plants and animals there?
When you think of Hawaii, you probably think of a tropical paradise. Although there may be good reasons for that image, there are other aspects to Hawaii that deserve some recognition too.
As you probably know, this group of volcanic islands is located well into the Pacific Ocean. That puts it about 2,000 miles from the nearest continental landmass.
About 70 million years ago, life began to evolve in Hawaii uninfluenced by species from elsewhere. That isolation allowed life to branch off and develop into rare forms native only to Hawaii.
Specifically, about 90% of plants and animals on the islands are found exclusively in Hawaii. That rate makes Hawaii special among all the places of the world. Even the Galapagos Islands, which are famous as far as their role in the history of biology goes, do not have such a high level of endemism (the state of species being unique to an area).
Hawaii’s isolation has produced some fascinating results in its environment, and strenuous efforts are constantly being made to preserve an environment that is such a one of a kind.
The ecosystem of the Hawaiian Islands is facing serious threats, such as reduced habitat outside protected areas, invasive plants and animals, and wildfires, just to name a few. There is still hope that Hawaii can retain its biological diversity for many generations to come.