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U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station
News for immediate release: October 3, 2007—11:30 a.m.
Contacts: Dr. Susan Cordell, Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, 808/933-8121
Roland Giller, Pacific Southwest Research Station, 510/559-6327
Volunteers, Military, Scientists Restore Lowland Wet Forest
HILO—Hawaii Army National Guard staff, community volunteers, and U.S.
Forest Service and University of Hawaii scientists planted more than 400 native plants
last week on the Keaukaha Military Reservation to preserve a vanishing ecosystem.
The unique partnership is helping military Environmental Programs Division
personnel restore native plants to a closed canopy forest on the reservation near Hilo
International Airport, while scientists at the U.S. Forest Service’s Institute of Pacific
Islands Forestry study the best way to preserve similar lowland wet forests.
The Environmental Programs Division works to protect the state’s fragile
environment, while supporting Hawaii Army National Guard training missions. More
than a third of all plants and animals on the endangered species list reside on the
Hawaiian Islands, and 33 rare, threatened and endangered species reside on land managed
by the Hawaii Army National Guard.
Lowland Wet Forest Working Group volunteers from the local community,
University of Hawaii at Hilo and public agencies planted seedlings in the forest’s under
story last week. Keaukaha Military Reservation staff used an on-site nursery to grow the
plants from seeds they collected there a year ago.
Lowland wet forests are revered for their ecological and cultural resources, and
once covered the windward side of Hawaiian Islands. They are now greatly reduced, but
some of the best remaining areas are found in the Puna and Hilo regions where volcanic
terrain protected them from human development.
“We know little of the ecology of these forests, including the past species
composition,” said Dr. Susan Cordell, an Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry scientist and
one of the project’s leaders. “But, it is certain many of the plant and animal species once
found here are locally extinct.”
Cordell said native canopy trees on the Keaukaha Military Reservation site
remain largely intact. However, invasive species like strawberry guava, melastomes and
feral pigs have devastated the under story.
The work of the collaborative team of U.S. Forest Service scientists, Hawaii
Army National Guard staff, and University of Hawaii at Hilo faculty and students is
helping us understand lowland wet rainforests in three ways, according to Cordell.
First, the study plots show how invasive species are affecting light, water and
nutrient availability. Second, they reveal mechanisms allowing non-native species to out
compete native species. Finally, they show the potential for restoring these ecosystems.
“This work shows how a project using appropriate species can benefit both
restoration and research of native Hawaiian ecosystems,” Cordell said.