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Saving Hawaii’s Tropical Forests

Hapu'u (Cibotium glaucum) is a native tree fern and a common understory species found in Hawaiian wet forests.

Hapu'u (Cibotium glaucum) is a native tree fern and a common understory species found in Hawaiian wet forests.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Hawaii’s tropical forests are under siege by a silent army of biological invaders. Every year, more acres of native forest and open land are invaded and harmed by invasive species – non-native plants that displace the native ones and over time degrade the tropical ecosystem processes. Years of fighting these invaders with chemical and mechanical treatments have been expensive and not that successful. So scientists today, in an effort to save these highly endangered ecosystems, are fighting biology with biology. Restoring the tropical forests to their original historic state is not financially or physically feasible; instead, they plan to create new ecosystems by incorporating both native species and non-native species that do not behave as invasives.

The scientists, from USDA Forest Service, Stanford University, and University of Hawaii, will begin their work on developing “hybrid ecosystems” next month (April 2011) with the goal of creating a sustainable ecosystem in tropical forests. Funded by a $1.6 million grant from the Defense Department, the scientists will conduct their research on the 200-acre Hawaii Army National Guard Keaukaha Military Reservation on the island of Hawaii.

“Invasive species are so prevalent,” said Dr. Susan Cordell, USDA Forest Service research ecologist. “You’re hand weeding, trying to eliminate them and aren’t able to keep up. We’re excited about this grant because it will allow us to try to find ways a sub-set of these species can co-exist and promote the sustainability and biodiversity of these forests.”

Located in Hilo, Hawaii, the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station’s Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry is a leading research institution addressing many critical natural resource-related issues in the Pacific.

One Response to “Saving Hawaii’s Tropical Forests”

  1. john lawrence says:

    ……addressing many critical natural resource related issues throughout the American affiliated Pacific Basin in Hawaii, American Samoa, the Marianas Islands (Guam and the CNMI) as well as the Freely Associated States Micronesia that includes the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau.

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