Unique Reintroduction Considerations in Hawaii: Case Studies from a Decade of Rare Plant Restoration at the Oahu Army Natural Resource Rare Plant Program

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Abstract

The extreme isolation of the Hawaiian Islands coupled with their sequential volcanic origin and gradual erosion from 4,000 meters above sea level down to sea mounts created a large variety of habitats from rainforest to desert within a small geographic area. This mix of ecological settings resulted in a highly endemic fauna and flora often lacking the typical assemblage of herbivores and carnivores found in continental situations (Carlquist 1970; Stone and Scott 1984). After Cook’s discovery of the islands, large numbers of nonindigenous species were introduced, and some of them have proven to be directly or indirectly detrimental to the native species. Most plants face multiple threats from predators, insects, feral ungulates, weeds, and loss of pollinators and dispersers. Hawaii’s unfortunate reputation as the home of 37% of the nation’s federally listed plants (US Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS] 2009) reveals a conservation crisis where restoration efforts are of critical importance. Indeed, conservation efforts have been under way since the early 1900s (Mehrhoff 1996), but rare plant conservation in Hawaii faces numerous challenges, many of them overlapping. Hawaii’s experiences with rare plant reintroduction elucidate the challenges managers confront in both island situations and continental environments.