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Classifying Hawaiian plant species along a habitat generalist-specialist continuum: Implications for species conservation under climate change

Plant communities on tropical high islands, such as the Hawaiian Islands, are predicted to
experience rapid climate change, resulting in novel climates. If increased temperature and/
or drought exceed plant species’ current tolerances, species that are unable to adapt or shift
ranges risk extinction. By definition, habitat generalists have a wide niche breadth and thrive
in a variety of habitats, whereas habitat specialists have a narrow niche breadth, and typically
thrive under more specific climatic characteristics (e.g., cold). The objectives of this
study were to: (1) classify plant species in the Hawaiian Islands along a habitat generalistspecialist
continuum; (2) independently test the validity of species rankings, using environmental
and biogeographic ranges; and (3) identify species’ life-history traits that predict species
location along the continuum.