Forest Service Scientists Awarded $1.4 Million for Restoration Efforts to Save Threatened Plants in Hawaii
A Forest Service research team has received a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Program to begin research using sophisticated topographic models to identify areas within dry forests that have the most potential for ecological restoration.
Led by U.S. Forest Service scientist Susan Cordell, the scientists, this June, will conduct a four-year project on the DOD’s 105,000-acre Pohakuloa Training Area on the island of Hawaii. The team, based out of the Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station, Hilo will first develop a habitat suitability model on the island. A demonstration plot will then be set up where they will test plant survival across a range of predicted suitability.
“Overcoming barriers to plant restoration in dry environments is especially critical for protecting threatened and endangered species. In Hawaii alone, the Department of Defense spends nearly $10 million annually on environmental programs to protect these species and their habitat,” said Cordell.
Outside of Hawaii, the top 10 DOD installations in the U.S. with the greatest number of federally listed species occur in dry ecosystems. By providing the tools necessary to ensure effective and compliant land use management for species recovery, this work could re‐define the way conservation-related land management agencies in dry ecosystems manage their restoration programs.
The research team has developed topographic models using elevation measurements from high-resolution airborne equipment that accurately predicted habitat suitability for existing threatened, endangered and at-risk plant species.
The scientists will expand this technology by using data collected by satellite observations to create digital elevation models which will further gauge habitat suitability. Because satellite imagery is readily available for locations across the globe, the methodology the team develops could be used to generate habitat suitability models for threatened and endangered species recovery for dry sites anywhere in the world.