The Biology of the Hawaiian Archipelago - a PeerJ Collection

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The Hawaiian Islands. Image credit: University of Hawai'i SOEST PIBMC

This Collection contains articles published in PeerJ which report on the biology of the Hawaiian archipelago. Although predominantly made up of marine biology articles, the Collection includes articles and preprints which report on any aspect of the two Hawaiian bioregions.

The Hawaiian archipelago spans an extensive latitudinal gradient that stretches 1,500 km across the central north Pacific from the island of Hawai’i in the southeast to Kure Atoll in the northwest. Located nearly 4,000 km from any continent, Hawai’i is the most isolated group of islands in the world. This isolation led to the radiation of 10,000 species from 700 ancestors resulting in extremely high biological endemism in both the terrestrial and marine environments. Generally two bioregions are recognized, the high islands of the main Hawaiian Island chain and the Northwestern islands and atolls. The main Hawaiian Islands consist of eight main islands and a number of smaller uninhabited islets. They contain extreme diversity of habitat that range from the alpine Lake Wai‘au to the barren Ka‘u desert. Extreme elevations range from Mauna Kea, the highest peak in the US, to atoll islets in the Northwestern chain exposed only at low tide making this archipelago an ideal place for scientific research.

The Northwestern islands of the Hawaiian Archipelago stretch from Nihoa Island to Kure Atoll and include dozens of tiny islands, atolls and shoals, spanning 1,200 nautical miles. Many rare and endemic species can be found among the over 7,000 species of marine mammals, turtles, birds, fishes, and invertebrates that inhabit an area of over 360,000 km2. This area has been designated as the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and has been widely recognized for its unique biological, cultural, and historic value. In 2010, these islands that encompass the largest completely protected conservation area in the US, were endorsed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site for both its natural and cultural importance. In addition, both the National and State Register of Historic Places have recognized the cultural and historic importance of some of these islands by including them in their listings.

The Collection is curated by Ku‘ulei Rodgers, of the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology – authors who would like to be a part of this Collection should email

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