Hawaiian Forest Birds Provide Opportunity for Outreach: USGS ecologist Dr. Eben Paxton has partnered with Teaching Change, an outdoor education program geared at encouraging local middle and high schoolers to pursue careers in natural resource management positions in Hawaii. The program, run at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, combines classroom and field immersion courses to provide students the opportunity to experience native Hawaiian ecosystems and better understand the impact of natural and human-induced change. Dr. Paxton teaches the groups about native Hawaiian forest bird conservation and the threats facing these species. To learn more about Teaching Change, click here. To learn more about Dr. Paxton's work with Hawaiian forest birds, click here.
Removing invasive predators to evaluate the responses of native birds, rare plants, food webs, and pollinators: Invasive species can harm native biota as predators and competitors through multiple, complex pathways and interactions. Combinations of invasive predators impede the restoration of native forest communities. Research can assist natural area managers by demonstrating how the removal of multiple invasive predators can benefit their restoration efforts. PIERC biologists Drs. Paul Banko and David Foote will work collaboratively with Dr. Robert Peck of the Hawaii Cooperative Studies Unit to remove invasive rats, yellowjacket wasps, and ants from three montane forest sites, each matched with a control site. To learn more about this project, click here.
U.S. Geological Survey’s Ridge-to-Reef Research on Moloka‘i: The U.S. Geological Survey, co-led by Drs. Jim Jacobi, Gordon Tribble, and John Stock, has been conducting research on the interaction between rainfall and vegetation cover relative to the generation, transport, and impacts of fine sediment on the south slope of the east part of the island of Moloka‘i. This research is directly linked to local community recognition of the problem of excessive sedimentation in the coral reef ecosystem on this island. Additionally, our studies are directly supporting active management of the feral goat populations in this area that is being conducted by The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i and the East Moloka‘i Watershed Partnership. Publications highlighting this research include a report on the vegetation mapping of the watersheds as well as a factsheet about the project. Learn more about this project here.
Massive Moth Outbreak in Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge: In January 2013, a koa looper moth outbreak began in the koa forests of the windward coast of the island of Hawaii. The koa looper moth is a native insect found across the Hawaiian islands and feeds exclusively on koa leaves as a caterpillar. Although outbreaks have been recorded on other Hawaiian islands, with the most recent occurring on Maui in 2004 and 2009, the scale and severity of the outbreak at Hakalau Forest NWR is unprecedented. Little is known about how the forest community will respond to such a large scale disturbance event. PIERC researchers are analyzing a number of factors including the impact of the outbreak on Hawaiian hoary bats, the food web, forest birds, and a number of plant and insect species. Investigating the dynamics of this extended outbreak and evaluating the response of the forest community will help inform management planning not only at Hakaulau NWR but throughout the Hawaiian islands. To learn more about this project, click here.
Restoring degraded Hawaiian dry forests on Maui: Hawaiian dryland forests are a critically endangered ecosystem that occupy 1-10% of their former extents and will likely disappear within the next century if appropriate restoration strategies are not developed and implemented. Hawaiian dry forests provide primary habitat for over 9% of the threatened and endangered flowering plant species found in the U.S. After 15 years of restoration efforts, led by PIERC biologist Dr. Arthur Medeiros, researchers found that native shrub cover increased by over 75% and non-native plant cover declined by 72%. By 2012, seven rare dry forest tree species had established seedlings within the restoration site. Recent research here has focused on quantifying hydrological differences between the restored forest and adjacent non-native grasslands and exploring how forest restoration reshapes invasive rodent communities with relevant conservation implications. Learn more about this project here.