Results and Accomplishments
As a result of over 20 years of active ecosystem management starting with fencing and feral animal control and succeeded by alien plant control and rare plant stabilization, the biota of Haleakala National Park is among the richest and most ecologically intact surviving within the protection of the US National Park system. Fencing, feral animal removal, and strategic alien plant control has resulted in spectacular recovery of native vegetation and associated fauna. Thirteen endangered plants and five endangered birds are harbored on park lands along with dozens of rare plants and a plethora endemic arthropods. Scores of ecosystem modifying non-native species threaten to invade native habitats at HALE potentially reversing this recovery. A few examples include pampas grass, an over 2 meter tall grass which could transform the colorful Haleakala Crater, only home of the threatened Haleakala silversword into an alien pampa or grassland. Miconia feared as the “green cancer” would transform arguably the best remaining Hawaiian rainforest, only remaing home of two critically endangered forest birds, the Maui Parrotbill and Akohekohe, into the green and purple monoculture that has become the fate of the forests in Tahiti. Silk oak a large invasive tree is poised to invade and convert rich native dry forest into a single alien species stand. Incipient invasions of these three ecosystem displacing super-weeds have been eradicated from park lands with a joint Park & Pacific Islands Exotic Plant Management Team effort but are poised for reinvasion. Buffer zones to dispersal need to be established and maintained adjacent to park lands. Invasive animals are perhaps an even more imminent threat. The veiled chameleon has escaped from the illegal pet trade and is considered by island biologists to have the potential of decimating native bird populations as the brown tree snake has done on Guam. The coqui frog with a loud, piercing nocturnal call and a huge appetite for insects (with populations consuming an average of 114,000 prey items/ha/night in native habitat) not only threatens sleepless nights and real estate prices but the highly evolved endemic arthropod fauna. The Maui Invasive Species Committee has thus far been effective in preventing wholesale invasion of Haleakala National Park and other prime conservation areas on Maui. MISC uses an early detection - rapid response strategy or in more advanced invasions creates invader free buffer zones around the prime natural areas. The challenge of combating invasive species is extreme with new species arriving on the islands daily. Evidence indicates that invasive species are much more likely to establish through Hawaii ports-of-entry than for other ports-of-entry in the U.S.
Following MISC, in the past decade other partnerships and groups have arisen to address significant gaps in Hawaii’s biosecurity system. They include the recently formed Hawaii Invasive Species Council (HISC) to provide state cabinet-level leadership; the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species (CGAPS) for interagency and NGO communications and collaborative projects; and the Invasive Species Committees (ISCs) for island-based rapid response. The Hawaii Ecosystems at Risk website serves to disseminate information for these groups.