USGS - science for a changing world

Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center

 Home /  About Us /  Scientists /  Research /  Q-Hui /  Publications /  Fact Sheets /  Archive /  Contact Us

PIERC Research Blurbs

Project Leader Task Title Webpage Blurb
Atkinson Application of Disease Ecology to Restoration of Native Forest Bird Communities The loss of native avifauna caused by accidental introduction of mosquito-borne avian malaria and pox virus to Hawaii is an outstanding example of how biological invasions can have a profound effect on endemic biota. The geographic distribution, density, and community structure of endemic Hawaiian avifauna has changed dramatically in the last century, in large part because of the spread of these diseases and their introduced mosquito vector. The primary goal of this project is to develop tools and strategies for predicting disease outbreaks, assessing their severity, and monitoring success of adaptive management for controlling mosquito vectors in high- and mid-elevation koa-ohia forests. A Fact Sheet about this project is available here.
Atkinson Assessing genetic diversity and population structure of rare and endangered plant species actively managed for recovery in National Parks of Hawaii Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park (HAVO) started a program in 1997 to stabilize its 23 threatened and endangered and approximately 40 other rare plant species and reintroduce extirpated endangered species. Currently, recovery efforts are underway on over 60 species emphasizing propagation and outplanting. The program has focused mainly on habitat restoration, development of a better understanding of demographic factors that impact these populations, and outplanting to increase population size to ensure the short-term survival of these species. Genetic data on source populations has been unavailable. We will evaluate a number of different marker systems for measuring genetic diversity of target plant species, including RAPDs, AFLP, and microsatellites and select the system that is most robust in terms of reproducibility and usefulness.
Atkinson Avian disease assessment in non-native passerines and seabirds at Midway Atoll AWR in preparation for future Nihoa finch and millerbird translocations Recent population irruptions of the grasshopper Schistocerca nitens have caused extensive defoliations on Nihoa island, threatening the small isolated population of Nihoa millerbird and Nihoa finch. The recovery plan for these species calls for establishing one or more additional populations for long-term viability. A panel of scientific experts met and selected Midway Atoll NWR as one of the primary sites for translocating Nihoa finches. Two species of introduced mosquitoes, Culex quinquefasciatus and Aedes albopictus, are present on the Refuge. Assessing disease prevalence and transmission potential on Midway is a critical first step to translocation of Nihoa endemics.
Atkinson Molecular tools for the genetic analyses of native and invasive species and disease organisms in Hawaii and Pacific Island Trust Territories The endemic flora and fauna of Hawaii and other Pacific islands has undergone extreme reductions in distribution and abundance since contact with both Polynesians and western civilizations. Many populations are fragmented, with little or no opportunity for gene flow, and are now susceptible to stochastic events like hurricanes, fires, and the impacts of invasive species and disease agents. Detailed information about the genetic structure of populations of threatened and endangered species and their historic genetic diversity and geographic uniqueness is becoming increasingly important for making decisions about their captive propagation and management and restoration in the wild. There is a critical need for application of modern genetic methods for the study of the historical and current diversity of threatened and endangered species as well as application of molecular tools to investigate the genetic diversity of invasive species and disease organisms, themselves.
Atkinson | LaPointe Survey for avian pathogens, mosquito vectors and larval mosquito habitat in the Kahuku Ranch Unit of HAVO While the avian disease system has been well-studied in the forests of the older section of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (HAVO) and in many other locations throughout the state, nothing is known about avian disease in the new Kahuku Unit and nearby Kau Forest Reserve. High elevation forests in Kau Forest Reserve and Kahuku still harbor intact communities of extant Hawaiian honeycreepers but distributions of native forest bird diversity and abundance in lower Kahuku suggest that avian disease might constrain existing populations and will hinder future attempts at restoration. Other state and federal lands may have been surveyed a decade ago but the arrival of new pathogens, new potential vectors and climate change require updated disease prevalence estimates to provide an accurate assessment of threats to bird populations today. In the next decade, a convergence of changes in landscape use, climate and the agents and vectors of avian disease will likely intensify the impact of avian disease on forest birds in Kahuku and forest bird habitat throughout Hawaii.
Banko ‘I‘iwi Habitat Restoration The ‘i‘iwi (Vestiaria coccinea) has declined severely in recent decades in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (HAVO) and elsewhere in the Hawaiian Islands due to the cumulative impacts of many invasive threats, including habitat degradation and food web disruption, predation, and disease. Although feral ungulates have been removed from important bird habitats within HAVO, native vegetation is slow to recover from long-term browse damage. Understanding the responses of ‘i‘iwi to habitat conditions and nectar availability will help develop strategies for attracting ‘i‘iwi from marginal or high-risk habitats and prolonging their residency in protected areas where feral ungulates have been removed.
Banko Develop strategy to mitigate impacts of invasive ants (American Samoa) Invasive ants are among the greatest threats to ecosystem integrity in National Park of American Samoa (NPSA). The aggressive nature of many species, combined with their ability to live in high densities over large areas, often results in large-scale reductions in biodiversity and a disruption of ecosystem processes. The primary objectives of this research are to identify patterns of ant diversity and distribution within NPSA, and evaluate impacts of invasive ants on native arthropod communities to help managers prioritize control efforts in various habitats.
Banko Experimental control of invasive ant species Invasive species are the principal problem confronting natural area managers in Hawaii, and ants pose one of the greatest challenges to protecting and restoring native ecosystems. Despite their potential impacts on native ecosystems, managers have little information about the distribution of ant species and have no basis for understanding the particular damage that different ant species may cause in natural areas. Moreover, managers have few tools available for controlling infestations, and they lack protocols for preventing the spread of ants into new areas, including special ecological areas.
Banko Food Webs, Arthropod Communities, and Bird Communities Throughout the Hawaiian Islands, major areas of forest were or still are dominated by koa (Acacia koa) and ohia (Metrosideros polymorpha), and maintaining the health of koa–ohia communities is crucial to restoring many native species and ecosystem function over large areas. It is of major significance to Hawaiian forest conservation, therefore, that koa-ohia communities have become degraded and reduced over time. However, managers have little detailed information that will help them restore the major constituent elements of koa-ohia forests and ecosystem processes needed to maintain forest health. This project provides research directed at understanding the ecology of native moth species, the basic composition of food webs, or the consequences of food web disruption to native species. Additionally, this project will provide information about how changes in the vegetation composition of koa-ohia forests may affect interactions between host plants and native arthropods.
Banko Palila Restoration The palila (Loxioides bailleui) is an endangered species of Hawaiian honeycreeper which exists only in subalpine forests dominated by mamane (Sophora chrysophylla) and naio (Myoporum sandwichense) on Mauna Kea Volcano. Invasive species remain the primary threat to palila, in the form of continued habitat damage by introduced sheep and mouflon, predation from non-native feral cats, increased fire risk from invasive plants, and potentially disruptions of food webs by invasive predatory insects. Managers need both comprehensive ecological information for developing management strategies and practical information and techniques to effectively restore and protect populations and habitats. A Fact Sheet about this project is available here.
Banko Understanding factors affecting decline of Samoan Swallowtail Butterfly The Samoan Swallowtail (Papilio godeffroyi) is a large and strikingly marked butterfly endemic to the Samoan Archipelago. Once widespread and common, its populations have declined dramatically, and it now appears restricted to the island of Tutuila, an area representing approximately 5% of its former range. National Park of American Samoa (NPSA) protects much of the intact rainforest habitat of the butterfly, but managers wishing to develop conservation strategies are hampered by a lack of information about its basic life history or the factors that are driving its decline. Our study proposes to identify and map distributions of host plants of the Samoa Swallowtail Butterfly within NPSA, determine environmental factors that influence distributions of both larvae and their host plants, quantify the influence of parasitoid enemies on egg, larval and pupal stages, and develop strategies for enhancing populations within the park.
Banko | Q-Hui Hawaiian Forest Bird Survey Design and Data Analysis The Hawai`i Forest Bird Interagency Database Project has been compiling, proofing, and standardizing over one million records from over 500 forest bird surveys conducted throughout Hawai`i by 22 different agencies and organizations spanning the past 30 years. These survey data represent a valuable informational resource which has not previously been accessible. Analyses provide updated distribution maps and population estimates (for both native and non-native bird species), population trends, and habitat suitability models. The data will ultimately elucidate trends in distribution and density of species of concern (both endangered and invasive species), test hypotheses for the causes of decline, examine the results of management actions, and guide future survey effort, conservation planning and decision-making.A Fact Sheet about this project is available here.
Banko | Q-Hui Inventory and Monitoring in Hawaii and Pacific Island National Parks -- Avifauna On Pacific islands, birds are the principal, and sometimes only, native terrestrial vertebrates and strongly influence ecological processes. The U.S. National Park Service has institutionalized natural resources monitoring through the Vital Signs Monitoring Program to track long-term ecosystem patterns. The Pacific Islands Network Landbird Monitoring Protocol provides rigorous data on bird status and trends, which are necessary to address measurable objectives that guide larger scientific and management priorities. PIERC was the lead on developing and writing the protocol, and facilitates survey implementation, conducts analyses and assists with report generation.
Banko | Q-Hui Status of forest birds on Rota, Mariana Islands The island of Rota is home to two endemic avian species, the Mariana crow (Corvus kubaryi) and Rota white-eye (Zosterops rotensis), both of which are Federally and locally listed, and two endemic subspecies, the Rota populations of the rufous fantail (Rhipidura rufifrons mariae), which is a Species of Concern under the CNMI’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, and collared kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris orii). The USFWS and CNMI Division of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) are going to conduct one or two island-wide surveys in 2012. This project will analyze the 2012 survey data as part of larger multi-agency avian conservation goals in the Marianas.
Bonaccorso Monitoring and researching bat activity at wind turbines with near infra-red videography The rapid expansion of wind energy nationwide is an important step toward reducing dependence on non-renewable sources of power. However, the magnitude of the wildlife impacts at wind energy facilities is a newly recognized threat, and the cumulative long-term impacts to various bat species are of increasing concern. Assessing the risk industrial wind turbines pose to bats is hindered by low light conditions and the cryptic attributes of night-flying animals. This need is often best met by deployment of remote technologies. We will demonstrate an innovative near infra-red (NIR) video system coupled with advanced digital processing and tracking algorithms for the purposes of assessing bat occurrence and behavior around wind turbines.
Bonaccorso Occupancy analysis using five years of acoustic data on the Hawaiian Hoary Bat (12-R1-06) This project is analyzing 5 years of acoustic data monitoring the occupancy of 17 public and private land management areas across the island of Hawaii for the presence of the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat. Analysis will look for seasonal and annual associations in habitat, elevation, and climate related to bat use of these landscapes. Additionally, occupancy at each site will be tested for population stability as inferred from the numbers of vocalizations over time. The information from this project will be used by federal and state agencies to reassess the conservation status of the Hawaiian hoary bat and to provide critical information to evaluate progress in the species Recovery Plan.
Bonaccorso Scales of habitat selection in the Endangered Hawaiian Hoary Bat (Lasiurus cinereus semotus) The Hawaiian Hoary Bat (Lasiurus cinereus semotus) is the only extant land mammal native to the Hawaiian archipelago. It is listed as endangered due to apparent population declines, and a lack of knowledge concerning its distribution, abundance, and habitat needs. Recent work indicates that the bat may be more widely distributed than previously believed, and is now known to be present in timber stands and other commercial land use areas. In order to develop appropriate policy for land use practices and bat recovery, detailed information on the bat’s distribution, abundance, and habitat use must be obtained.
Foote Anchialine Pool Ecosystem Assessment in Hawaii National Parks A model for Kaloko Honokohau National Historical Park (KAHO) indicates that increasing withdrawals of freshwater nearby the park will result in decreased groundwater discharge inside the park. Reductions in freshwater flow will result in increased salinity of anchialine pools distributed within the park boundaries. Increasing levels of salinity has the potential to affect anchialine pool ecosystems and particularly freshwater arthropods that complete their life cycle in these pools. The rapid pace of current development and potential increases in groundwater withdrawal along the Kona coast in the immediate vicinity of KAHO highlights the need for ecological studies of the effects of rising salinity on anchialine pool communities. A Fact Sheet about this project is available here.
Foote Integrated Management of Alien Predators Small mammals (including three species of rats and one species of mongoose) and social Hymenoptera (including ants and yellowjacket wasps) form two groups of alien predators in Hawaiian ecosystems whose combined impact has resulted in substantial loss or reduction of native biota in the Pacific. Control of alien predators is one of the highest research priorities among both federal and state land management agencies in Hawai`i. Small mammals and social Hymenoptera form a complex of multiple stressors whose impact and control have many parallels that lend them to co-management in native ecosystems. Both groups undergo seasonal fluctuations in populations, are attracted to baits, and respond to chemical control. Methodologies to control alien predators will be fully developed as part of component studies under this phase of Species and Habitat Protection.
Foote Restoration of Soil Fauna in Hawaii Parks and Refuges Previous research on the soil ecology of Hawaiian montane rainforests indicates that endemic microarthropods are favored in older feral ungulate exclosures. This suggests that restoration of native soil fauna is possible as a consequence of resource management efforts to exclude ungulates from rainforests. As part of extensive inventories of Hawaiian montane forests, including special ecological areas within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, comprehensive surveys of soil fauna have been completed. It is now possible to test hypotheses concerning patterns of diversity in Hawaii soil biota and evaluate the role of ungulate exclosures in promoting restoration of endemic fauna.
Foote Sensitivity of Hawaii High-Elevation and Aquatic Ecosystems to Global Change The linkages between cloudwater hydrology and high species endemism in a narrow altitudinal zone make tropical montane cloud forests (TMCFs) among the ecosystems most vulnerable to loss of biodiversity through climate change. This project will collect and summarize long-term data on the microclimate of TMCFs of the Pacific Islands, with an emphasis on the hydrology of cloud forests of the Hawaiian Islands. This information will be used to evaluate current resource management practices and as a guide for restoration of TMCFs and their transitional zones in DOI National Parks and Wildlife Refuges of the Pacific.
Foote Yellowjacket Wasp Outbreaks in Parks and Refuges Since its spread throughout the Hawaiian Islands in the 1970s, the western yellowjacket wasp (Vespula pensylvanica) has become a dominant predator of arthropods in montane ecosystems. Among documented prey are many endemic insects, such as Hawaiian picture-wing Drosophila flies, including twelve listed Threatened and Endangered Species. Extensive data on wasp population cycles have been collected as a consequence of efficacy tests for alternative suppression methods. It is important to relate wasp population cycles to climate and prey availability in order to develop an integrated pest management program for wasps in parks and refuges.
Fortini Support to the Pacific Islands LCC The main science issue for the Pacific Island Climate Change Consortium in Hawaii is how climate change is going to affect the stability of island ecosystems and ecosystem function. The objectives of this study are to model the effect of climate change on ecological processes and community structure in Hawaii. Quantitative modeling of Island ecosystems will be done to understand how community structure (plant, insect, and bird) will be affected by the physical shifts imposed by global climate change. This includes topics such as how climatic changes in the physical environment affect the ecologic function of island watersheds and how climate change will affect the movement of energy, water, and other material through the biosphere. A strong focus to this work is how climate change will affect ecosystem services that support human cultures and communities.
Hess Developing new strategies to manage Mouflon (Ovis musimon) in Hawaii Alien herbivores can contribute to the extinction of sensitive endemic plants, alter ecosystem processes, and have profound effects on insular plant communities and their associated fauna. While effective control strategies exist for some feral domestic herbivores, more recently introduced non-domesticated species such as mouflon (Ovis gmelini musimon) pose a greater challenge due to their elusiveness, differences in social behaviors, and ability to thrive in a broader variety of natural areas. Control efforts for have not been successful on Mauna Kea, and a widening distribution of this species now threatens Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park (HAVO) and other natural areas on the island of Hawai`i. The primary focus of this research is to develop more efficient control methods for mouflon, and will also determine a relatively simple and efficient method of monitoring the effectiveness of management for herbivore populations and plant communities.A Fact Sheet about this project is available here .

Hess Invasive Mammals in the Pacific The terrestrial biota of the Central Pacific is primarily defined by its degree of isolation. After tens of millions of years of evolutionary isolation from all mammals except bats, islands of the Central Pacific were quite suddenly besieged by a number of alien rodents, carnivores and both large and small herbivores. Our objectives are to conduct original applied research to aid in the scientific understanding, management, and eradication of invasive mammals from Pacific islands. This research may consist of determining the effects of invasive mammals on native biota through reviews of existing research, monitoring the management of invasive mammals, developing and refining control methodology, and determining the outcome of management actions as they relate to the recovery of native ecosystems.
Hess Tracking Nene Movements across Park Boundaries The federally endangered nene (Branta sandvicensis), or Hawaiian Goose, once present on most of the Hawaiian Islands, was found only on Hawai`i Island by 1900. This remnant population was reduced to as few as 30 individuals by 1952 due to the combination of unregulated hunting, introduced mammalian predators, and large-scale habitat degradation. Nene have been restored to a few places like Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park (HAVO) through years of dedicated efforts in captive breeding, reintroduction to the wild, habitat management, and predator control. As their slow recovery has progressed, Nene have begun to reestablish some natural movement patterns and routes that connect their isolated small subpopulations on Hawai`i Island. Understanding habitat use patterns is necessary for managing Nene and restoring their habitat, and will be an important component of General Management Planning for this area.
Jacobi Coastal strand vegetation survey on the major Hawaiian Islands Limited attention has been given to the conservation of Hawaii lowland ecosystems, and in particular to the coastal strand communities. Cumulative impacts from 1500 years of human lowland occupation have left only scattered, degraded remnants of this original biota. Of all the disappearing lowland vegetation, the strand has been the most limited in original distribution, but it can have the best prospects for long-term preservation. While stressful shoreline conditions limit the breadth and total distributional area of the strand communities, they also act to restrain the invasion of this habitat by alien species. The native plants surviving in the stand tend to be resilient, and the structure and composition of strand communities lend themselves much better to restoration or even reconstruction the do more upland communities. This is fortunate, as the strand is fast disappearing from the islands, and more extensive and restorative conservation efforts are much needed.
Jacobi Model the historic range for plant species and communities found within the Kawela watershed prior to human occupation and disturbance A recently completed project to model the potential (historic) range of Hawaiian plant species is being used to compile a list of native plant species that would have been expected in this highly disturbed landscape. We are using this methodology to identify the native plant species and vegetation community units that would have been naturally found in the Kawela watershed to help develop restoration strategies if the ungulate impacts are significantly reduced.
Jacobi Monitor plant community dynamics and feral ungulates across the Kawela watershed Plant cover plays a very important role in regulating the amount of surface erosion and ground water recharge that occurs within a watershed. To better understand these processes within the Kawela watershed this task focuses on assessing changes in plant communities, ungulate populations, and ungulate impacts in transects running downslope through the study area. This sampling will be coordinated with animal control efforts by the East Moloka‘i Watershed Partnership so we can evaluate changes in vegetation and animal impacts prior to and following herd reduction efforts.
Jacobi Plant Maps Information on the current and potential distribution of native and alien plant species is critical for the development and implementation of effective management programs to reduce or eliminate the effects of invasive species on the native ecosystems and species of the Hawaiian Islands. This project will create potential distribution maps for a set of native and invasive plant species in the main Hawaiian Islands. Native species will be selected on basis of information availability. The maps will be produced by modeling potential or historic distribution using a geographical information system (GIS), using existing or newly-collected data on the location and associated site information (e.g., elevation, rainfall zone, substrate, slope, aspect) for each of the species.
Jacobi Response of native and alien plant species and communities to feral ungulate control The USGS is quantifying changes on the Kawela ridge by using remote sensing and on-the-ground field data to create vegetation maps of unprecedented accuracy and resolution. We are combining these maps with field measurements of rainfall, evaporation, infiltration, and root strength in both invasive species and native communities to show changes in resistance to erosion for landslide and overland flow. We are also collecting data to monitor changes in vegetation composition and structure in response to management actions (e.g. feral ungulate control) to restore native-dominated plant communities.
Loope Assess strategies for invasive plant management in Hawaii/Pacific Islands Invasive alien species pose an enormous threat to the world’s biological diversity, believed by most authorities to rank second only to land-use change. Because of their evolution in relative isolation and in the absence of many forces shaping continental organisms, ecosystems of oceanic islands are particularly vulnerable to invasion by invasive alien species from continents. This project is aimed at filling knowledge gaps to improve our collective ability to prevent or manage plant invasions in Hawaii and Pacific islands.
Lloyd Loope Assess the threat of new invasive pathogens and arthropod pests to Hawaii's dominant plant species Hawaii receives serious new pests every year, roughly half from foreign destinations and half from the U.S. mainland. Puccinia psidii (eucalyptus rust), first discovered on Oahu on ohia (Metrosideros polymorpha, Myrtaceae) in April 2005, is especially troubling. Originally found on native guava in Brazil, P. psidii is now known to have a broad host range within the Myrtaceae. Ideal conditions for infection are met in Hawaii’s rainforests, where ohia (a Myrtaceae) is the overwhelmingly dominant tree in 80% of the state’s forests. Hawaii state is currently in the process of erecting an interim regulatory barrier to interstate trade to prevent exotic Myrtaceae from continuing to enter Hawaii through agriculture or retail routes. Although Puccinia psidii has already established in Hawaii, it is nevertheless important to keep out new genetic material to prevent potentially increased virulence, host range, and climatic tolerance.
Loope Kanaha Kanaha Beach Park is a heavily-visited, publicly-owned coastal park on the north shore of the Island of Maui. Traditionally, beach parks in Hawai‘i have been managed for recreational use, rather than ecosystem protection. Overuse, vehicle traffic, and litter had transformed Kanaha Beach into a degraded coastal zone with little value but great potential as a habitat for native plants and animals. The Kanaha Beach restoration project uses a management approach that maximizes both conservation value and recreational opportunities. This unique project provides a model and inspiration for the restoration of other coastal Hawaiian habitats by community members under the guidance of regional scientists. A Fact Sheet about this project is available here.
Loope Population dynamics and pollination ecology of the threatened Haleakala silversword Haleakala silversword (Argyroxyphium sandwicense ssp. macrocephalum) is a spectacular and integral component of the alpine ecosystem in Haleakala National Park and occurs exclusively in and immediately adjacent to the park. It forms the foundation of a diverse community of associated biotic elements in otherwise largely barren cinder habitats in the park’s alpine ecosystem, and therefore plays a critical ecological role at Haleakala. Silverswords in a suite of 11 long-term demographic plots in the park have decreased in abundance by over 50% from 1982 to 2006. The apparent decline may be linked to a more consistent trade wind inversion pattern in Hawaii over recent decades, and illustrates sensitivity to climate change. Anticipated results will include a more accurate baseline population census that can be repeated at relatively infrequent intervals, and subpopulation density estimates that can subsequently be linked to abiotic variables such as temperature and hydrology.
Loope | Jacobi Status and Trends of Hawaiian Flora and Fauna Hawaii has more endangered species than any other state - over 394 species. In spite of this fact, there is not a central clearing house for information on the status and trends of these species. This project creates a central clearinghouse to maintain information on Hawaiian biodiversity to provide immediate web access to current status and trends.
Medeiros Developing a science basis for forest restoration for the Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership Among both private and public landowners, ecological restoration of koa (Acacia koa) forests in the Hawaiian Islands may be one of the most important trends in the emergent science of restoration ecology in that it fuses ecological feasibility, biological significance, and economic sustainability. In terms of feasibility, koa’s tremendous potential growth rates and nitrogen-fixing capability are traits that help targeted restoration projects to potentially convert highly modified landscapes, such as pastures and eroded ridges back to native forests. Biologically, koa and sub-dominant ‘ohi’a lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) are the most important Hawaiian plant species, supporting numerous coevolved bird and insect species, some Endangered. A major challenge involves determining how koa restoration can successfully combine goals of biological restoration with those of sustainable silviculture.
Medeiros Limiting factors for dryland forest restoration on Maui Island, Hawaii Hawaiian volcanoes block northeast trade winds, creating wet, windward rain forest and leeward dryland forests. Dryland forests of the Hawaiian Islands, like those worldwide, have been heavily impacted by humans, as they are vulnerable to wildfires and often highly modified by ranching and agriculture. Historically considered by many biologists to be the richest of Hawaiian terrestrial ecosystems, they are now the most degraded. This project is developing new paradigms in dryland forest restoration. In the last two decades, great strides have been made in breaking alien grass-fire cycles, reestablishing understory vegetation, and promoting spontaneous unassisted recruitment of dryland forest species. A Fact Sheet about this project is available here.
Paxton Ecology and demography of Hawaiian Forest Birds Many of Hawaii’s forest birds have shown significant declines in the past 200 years, with many currently listed as endangered species. Many threats have been identified as contributing to declines, including disease, invasive species, habitat loss, and decreased survivorship and productivity by introduced predators. Demographic studies are needed to determine how the different factors effect population health and viability, and models used to determine the relative effects of different factors. This task seeks to address those needs by conducting field demographic and ecological studies at key forest bird reserves, develop ecological models to better understand dynamics, and provide information valuable for land managers.
Pratt Determine limiting factors of rare and endangered plant species of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park The rare plant species of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (HAVO) are a significant component of the area’s flora and natural biodiversity. Despite decades of protection from feral animals and reduction of invasive alien plants, many rare plant populations have not increased or even stabilized within the managed Special Ecological Areas (SEAs) of HAVO. Even though limiting factors are not understood for all rare plants, Park managers are moving forward with rare plant restoration within selected SEAs. If newly restored plant populations are to be self-sustaining, factors responsible for the original loss and continued decline must be better understood.
Pratt Development of techniques for restoration of forest ecosystems in the Mariana Islands The vegetation of Pagan, CNMI has been altered by volcanic eruption and the actions of feral ungulates. Early surveys were of brief duration and qualitative in nature. To assess the current status of the vegetation of Pagan and to facilitate detection of change in vegetation if feral animals are removed or reduced, it is desirable to have vegetation sampled in all major vegetation types and a quantitative measure of ground cover and non-woody plants, as well as tree species. Botanists assessed vegetation and established vegetation plots in forest vegetation and in selected other vegetation types. Plant species encountered were recorded and compared with a checklist of plant species known to be on island. Species that are new records for the island will be collected as voucher specimens.
Reynolds Developing accurate survey methods for estimating population sizes and trends of the critically endangered Nihoa Millerbird and Nihoa Finch Reducing extinction risks to the endemic Nihoa Millerbird (Acrocephalus familiaris kingi) and Nihoa Finch (Telespiza ultima) requires understanding these species’ population trends so as to project anticipated trajectories, evaluate the potential impact of translocation, and prioritize management actions. However, the current survey protocol has produced a wide range of annual population estimates for both the Millerbird and Finch. The survey methods proposed in this research will better provide the accurate data needed by regulatory agencies to assess current population status and trends, make decisions about management actions, and evaluate the impacts and success of such actions through modeling and monitoring.
Reynolds Ecology, population dynamics, and translocation of the endangered Laysan duck (Anas laysanensis) The Laysan teal (Anas laysanensis) has the most restricted range of any duck species and is especially vulnerable to extinction because of its small population size. Small isolated populations are extremely vulnerable to extinction from chance events such as human caused stochastic and natural disturbance, or alien species, and emerging diseases. The last wild population of Laysan ducks exists as a relict population and appears to be declining due to severe weather, accidental introductions, and food shortages. This project will examine aspects of the duck's ecology including population dynamics, foraging behavior, seasonal prey availability, reproductive success, population genetics and habitat use on Laysan and Midway Atoll NWR. Information on the species range of resource use will help identify its ecological role, guide habitat restoration, and translocation. A Fact Sheet about this project is available here.
Reynolds Movement and demographic factors limiting recovery of endangered Koloa Maoli The Hawaiian duck or Koloa (Anas wyvilliana) is the only endemic anatid extant to the main Hawaiian Islands. The Koloa is listed as endangered and primarily threatened due to risk of hybridization by an introduced species, the feral Mallard. Little is known of the Koloa’s habitat use, behavior, or movements. Kaua’i Island supports approximately 90% of remaining true koloa, and Hanalei NWR and the surrounding taro agriculture of the north shore of Kaua’i is the most important region for koloa on Kaua’i (USFWS 2005). Objectives aimed specifically at koloa recovery include evaluation of methods to control hybridization threats to koloa, identify factors most limiting koloa population recovery, and investigate koloa daily and seasonal movements. For effective management, USFWS seeks information on these critical aspects of koloa biology. A Fact Sheet about this project is available here.
Reynolds Predicting risks of island extinctions due to sea level rise: model based tools to mitigate terrestrial habitat losses in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Scenarios of projected global climate change predict that sea level rise may inundate coastal and low elevation Pacific islands. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands include 300,000 sq. km of ocean waters and 10 sub-tropical islands and atolls of high conservation value. Designated as Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the islands provide habitat for the largest and most important assemblages of tropical seabirds in the world, with 14 million birds (22 species) and 11 endangered species of terrestrial birds and plants. Even small increases in sea level may result in loss of critical habitat and increase risk of extinctions of species restricted to low lying atolls. These island ecosystems require downsized spatial and temporal models to identify, assess, and manage risks to these biological resources. By identifying areas and species most vulnerable, resource managers can plan for management and mitigation scenarios such restorations or as the intentional transport of species to prevent species extinction (i.e. “assisted migration” or translocation).

TOP OF PAGE

USGS Home Water Climate Change Core Science Ecosystems Energy and Minerals Env. Health Hazards

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://www.usgs.gov/ecosystems/pierc/research/details.html
Page Contact Information: Derek Renn
Page Last Modified: Wednesday, 09-Jan-2013 09:43:33 EST