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Conversion of native terrestrial ecosystems in Hawai‘i to novel grazing systems: a review

January 31, 2017

The remote oceanic islands of Hawai‘i exemplify the transformative effects that non-native herbivorous mammals can bring to isolated terrestrial ecosystems. We reviewed published literature containing systematically collected, analyzed, and peer-reviewed original data specifically addressing direct effects of non-native hoofed mammals (ungulates) on terrestrial ecosystems, and indirect effects and interactions on ecosystem processes in Hawai‘i. The effects of ungulates on native vegetation and ecosystems were addressed in 58 original studies and mostly showed strong short-term regeneration of dominant native trees and understory ferns after ungulate removal, but unassisted recovery was dependent on the extent of previous degradation. Ungulates were associated with herbivory, bark-stripping, disturbance by hoof action, soil erosion, enhanced nutrient cycling from the interaction of herbivory and grasses, and increased pyrogenicity and competition between native plants and pasture grasses. No studies demonstrated that ungulates benefitted native ecosystems except in short-term fire-risk reduction. However, non-native plants became problematic and continued to proliferate after release from herbivory, including at least 11 species of non-native pasture grasses that had become established prior to ungulate removal. Competition from non-native grasses inhibited native species regeneration where degradation was extensive. These processes have created novel grazing systems which, in some cases, have irreversibly altered Hawaii’s terrestrial ecology. Non-native plant control and outplanting of rarer native species will be necessary for recovery where degradation has been extensive. Lack of unassisted recovery in some locations should not be construed as a reason to not attempt restoration of other ecosystems.

Publication Year 2017
Title Conversion of native terrestrial ecosystems in Hawai‘i to novel grazing systems: a review
DOI 10.1007/s10530-016-1270-7
Authors Christina R. Leopold, Steven C. Hess
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Biological Invasions
Index ID 70180550
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center