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November 20, 2023

New flammable invasive grass species and weeds were discovered on five Hawaiian Islands through extensive surveying funded by the Pacific Islands CASC. 

Invasive grasses can fuel wildfires and are a grave concern across the Hawaiian Islands. Recognizing these species, identifying where they are, and controlling them is crucial for reducing ecosystem flammability and avoiding future wildfires. 

Over the past year, a new array of invasive, flammable grass species and weedy species were discovered across the Hawaiian Islands by researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa, with support from the Pacific Islands CASC. Intense surveying, conducted over 50 days and five Hawaiian Islands, revealed 34 previously unreported invasive and weedy species. Of these, six species had never been found outside of their native range, and at least two are known to be highly flammable. In addition to invasive grasses, the researchers also uncovered previously misidentified species and other weeds that could negatively impact native species, agriculture and livestock, and human well-being. 

Controlling the spread of invasive species requires knowing what they are and where they exist. Information from this Pacific Islands CASC-funded project can help managers control the spread of invasive species and better understand associated fire risks.  

This work is supported by the Pacific Island CASC Project, “Predicting the Effects of Climate Change on the Spread of Fire-Promoting Plants in Hawaiʻi: Assessing Emerging Threats to Rare Native Plants and Ecosystems.” 

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