Issue 6: Conservation of Native Biodiversity



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Wildfire: Wildfire is an uncommon natural occurrence in Hawaii, where ground-strike lightning is rare and wet plant communities cover large areas. Fire-adapted aliens (especially grasses and short-lived shrubs) are established in lower, leeward slopes and some subalpine areas. When ignited these weeds fuel major wildfires that can carry into native forests. Native forests are destroyed and replaced with fire-adapted weeds in a trend that increases the range and intensity of these fires. This grass/fire cycle perpetuates itself and without intervention can render native ecosystems permanently altered and unable to be restored to a natural state.

Other non-biological factors that threaten conservation of biodiversity in Hawaii include: limited information and insufficient information management; uneven compliance with existing conservation laws, rules and regulations; constraints in management capacity; and inadequate funding.

In addition to geographic specificity, threats are also specific to certain terrestrial habitats, freshwater habitats and individual species or groups of species. Tables 6.2, 6.3, and 6.4 summarize threats by habitat and species.



Trends

While the threats to Hawaii’s native species persist, recent years have seen greater awareness of the need to take action to conserve biodiversity through more assertive political will to address these problems, and wider community involvement in project implementation. These changes have resulted in positive steps towards the recovery of many of Hawaii’s endangered species and in the protection of species that remain common so that they do not become endangered. Success stories include recovering the nēnē (Branta sandvicensis [Hawaiian goose and state bird]) from the edge of extinction, increasing populations of honu (Chelonia mydas agassizi [green sea turtle]), protection of numerous important habitats and community-led restoration efforts such as in Waimanalo streams encouraging the return of the endangered aeo (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni [Hawaiian stilt]). However, despite these success stories, Hawaii continues to face major conservation challenges in protecting its over 10,000 native wildlife species, as well as some critically endangered such as the Hawaiian Monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi).



VH=Very High Threat, H = High, M = Medium, L = Low, NA = Not Applicable, no perennial streams.

Threat





































Ungulates

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

Weeds

H

VH

VH

H

H

H

H

H

VH

H

H

H

Fire

L

H

M

H

M

L

L

M

L

L

H

VH

Small Mammals

M

H

M

L

L

M

L

M

M

M

M

L

Pathogens

M

L

L

L

L

M

L

M

M

M

M

L

Development

L

M

M

L

L

L

L

L

H

L

H

L

Military Training

L

H

M

L

L

L

L

L

L

L

L

H

Recreational Use

L

L

L

L

L

L

L

L

L

L

L

L

Stream Diversion

L

NA

L

L

M

M

L

M

NA

NA

NA

NA

Overharvesting

L

L

L

L

L

L

L

L

L

L

L

L

Logging

L

L

L

L

L

L

L

M

L

L

H

L

Grazing

L

L

L

L

L

L

M

M

L

L

H

M

Overall rank:

M

H

H

M

M

M

M

H

H

M

H

H

Kauai

Waianae (Oahu)

Koolau (Oahu)

East Molokai

West Maui

Kohala (Hawaii)

East Maui

Mauna Kea (Hawaii)

Windward Mauna Loa (Hawaii)

Kau/Kapapala (Hawaii)

Kona (West Hawaii)

Pohakuloa/Puuwaawaa (Hawaii)

Table 6.2. Threat Assessment Summary by Geographic Landscape11

Collaborative Working Groups



Conservation of Hawaii’s unique habitats and species requires cooperation across land ownerships and organizations. Examples of successful collaborative partnerships protecting and conserving habitats and species are:

  • The Hawaiian Bat Research Cooperative, a partnership composed of government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private landowners, was formed to prioritize and fund needed bat research.

Table 6.3. Principal Threats to Native Aquatic Habitats

Aquatic Habitat

Principal Threats

Streams

Sedimentation caused by grazing animals, development, water diversions: dams, channelizing/concreting stream bottom & sides, introduced gamefish. Lack of vegetation along banks reducing shade, nutrient inputs from decaying plant matter and shelter provided by tree roots. Excessive vegetation adjacent to streams leading to decline in native aquatic organisms.

Estuaries

Similar to streams: sedimentation, development, & invasive species boat harbors & other sources of human disturbance.

Sandy Bottom

Pollution, human impacts.

Coral reefs

Human impacts, non-point source pollution from terrestrial land use practices, excessive inundation with freshwater during storm events which can inhibit successful establishment of coral larvae, invasive species of algae, disease and global climate change.

Bathypelagic, Mesopelagic,and Pelagic

Offshore aquaculture is a potential new threat to these areas.

Additional Marine Habitats

Direct and indirect human impacts due to proximity to the coast.

The Hawaiian Forest Bird Recovery Team, a cooperative effort involving multiple government agencies and nonprofit organizations guide forest bird conservation work, including the development of the Draft Revised Recovery Plan for Hawaiian Forest Birdsviii and five-year implementation plans for identified critical species, captive propagation, annual forest bird surveys, as well as other identified research and management projects.

  • Dryland Forest Working Group (DFWG) is an ad hoc partnership formed in the early 1990’s. It was the driving force behind restoration science at Kaupulehu dryland forest. In 1993, the DFWG began to advise and participate in a cooperative restoration project and agreement between the Hawaii Forest Industry Association (HFIA) and the USFWS.

Table 6.4 Native Species, Principal Threats and Conservation Needs

Species

Principal Threats

Hawaiian hoary bat

Habitat loss, roost disturbance, pesticides, collision with structures in the built environment.

Forest birds

There are only 33 extant species of native Hawaiian forest birds in the main Hawaiian islands-less than half the number known from historic and fossil records-and one third of those remaining are extremely rare or possibly extinct. 21 are Federally listed as Endangered Species.



Conversion of land from forests to agricultural & other use. Degradation by ungulates & invasive plant species, introduction of the avian malaria virus and avian pox. Rats, feral cats, & mongooses prey on bird nests, nestlings, and incubating adults. Alien bird & arthropod species may compete for food or nest resources.

Raptors

The io (Hawaiian hawk) & pueo (Hawaiian short-eared owl) are the only extant native raptors in Hawaii. Historically there were at least two additional species of hawks/eagles and four owls.



Primary threats include predation by introduced rodents and cats (particularly for the ground-nesting pueo) and habitat loss.

Waterbirds

Six species of extant, endemic waterbirds occur in Hawaii: the endemic Laysan duck (Anas laysanensis), nene (Hawaiian goose), koloa maoli (Anas wyvilliana [Hawaiian duck]), and the native alae ula (Gallinula chloropus sandvicensis [Hawaiian moorhen]), alae keokeo (Fulica alai [Hawaiian coot]), and aeo (Hawaiian stilt). At least eight species of duck/geese, three species of ibis, and 12 species of rails have been lost.



Loss and degradation of wetland habitats. Predation (primarily by feral cats, also by mongooses and feral dogs (Canis familiaris), hybridization between non-native mallards and the koloa maoli (Hawaiian duck), and disease.

Seabirds

40 species observed, at least 20 known to breed in Hawaii. 2 are endemic: uau (Pterodroma sandwichensis [Hawaiian petrel]) and ao (Puffinus auricularis newelli [Newell's shearwater]). Many are of global or national importance: over 95 percent of the world's moli (Phoebastria immutabilis [Laysan albatross]) and kaupu (Phoebastria nigripes [black-footed albatross]) populations nest in the Hawaiian Archipelago.



Primary threats on the main islands includes predation by feral cats, rodents, & mongooses, loss or degradation of habitat due to habitat-modifying invasive plants or animals, & human disturbance including coastal lighting. Threats at sea include fisheries by catch and pollution (including oil spills).

Migratory shorebirds and waterfowl

Many species of migratory shorebirds and waterfowl winter in Hawaii. kolea (Pluvialis fulva [Pacific golden plover]), akekeke (Arenaria interpres [ruddy turnstone]), lili (Heteroscelus incanus [wandering tattler]), kioea (Numenius tahitiensis [bristle-thighed curlew]) are regular migrants that have been identified as important (by the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan) because the populations in Hawaii are hemispherically significant or relatively large.



Primary threats include loss or degradation of habitat and predation by feral cats and dogs.

Innovative Management Techniques

Select innovative biodiversity management techniques are under pilot testing for potential adoption in Hawaii. One example, use of predator-proof fencing to protect seabird nests and Monk seals, will be demonstrated at Kaena Point on Oahu. These fences, developed in New Zealand, prevent in the ingress of all mammals and once constructed the mammals inside the fence can be eradicated. The Kaena Point fence will protect nesting seabirds and Monk seal, and equally important will exemplify to visitors the impact that predators have on Hawaii’s wildlife and habitats. Other trials include implementation of consistent aerial shooting techniques and timing and landscape-scale mapping of specific weeds through aerial imagery.

Funding for Conservation

Since the arrival of humans more than half of the Hawaiian archipelago’s known endemic bird taxa have been lost. Of the taxa that remain, 31 are federally listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and 17 have populations of less than 1,000 individuals. Previous studies have documented a geographic disparity in recovery expenditures on listed species, but none have specifically focused on Hawaiian birds. To draw attention to this disparity with the aim to improve Hawaiian bird conservation, DOFAW staff Wildlife Biologist David Leonard summarized recovery expenditures on listed birds from 1996 to 2004 comparing mainland and Hawaiian taxa in the context of their degree of endangerment. Federal and state spending on the 95 listed bird taxa over this nine year period totaled $752,779,924. Hawaiian birds comprise a third of the listed bird taxa (n = 31), yet dedicated recovery expenditures was only $30,592,692 or 4.1% of the total spent on all listed birds. Despite similar priority ranks assigned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, listed mainland birds received over 15 times the funding of Hawaiian birds. In general, the threats to island taxa are unlike those of mainland taxa (e.g., non-native predators), management actions are expensive, and in many cases they must be conducted in perpetuity. Because of the status of many Hawaiian birds and the threats facing them, current recovery expenditures are inadequate to prevent additional extinctions.ix

Hawaii ranks near the bottom (48th) in the nation for state spending on fisheries and wildlife, though the state forest reserve system ranks 11th in size and the state boasts the largest marine protected areas in the United States. In Fiscal Year 2006, the State Department of Land and Natural Resources was allocated approximately $76.8 million of the State’s $8.9 billion dollar executive budget. With less than one percent (0.86%) of the state’s budget, the DLNR must manage the state’s marine and freshwater resources (e.g., commercial fisheries, aquaculture, aquatic resources protection, recreational fisheries), protect threatened and endangered species, manage State-owned lands (both those for lease and those set aside as forest reserves, natural areas, plant and wildlife sanctuaries, and parks/recreation), manage statewide ocean recreation and coastal areas programs (i.e., boating), oversee permitting associated with the Conservation District, implement the state’s historic preservation mandates, maintain the statewide recording system for title to real property, and enforce the Department’s rules and regulations.

A conservative estimate of the amount of state funds actually dedicated solely to conservation of native wildlife and their habitats was approximately $23 million dollars for Fiscal Year 2006. Though no comprehensive cost estimates exist for the protection and recovery of wildlife in Hawaii, the inadequacy of current funding levels is obvious based on costs included in recovery plans for endangered species. For example, the recently published Draft Revised Recovery Plan for Hawaiian Forest Birds (2003) estimates the cost of recovering 21 species of forest birds at nearly $2.5 billion dollars over the next 30 years – an annual cost ($83 million) that exceeds the budget for the entire DLNR. Costs associated with the recovery for endangered whales, sea turtles, seabirds, waterbirds, invertebrates and plants would add tens of millions more per year.



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