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7/6/08 - Pu'u Wa'awa'a

Posted Monday 7th July 2008 at 08:07 by bkrownd
I did my first volunteer work day at Pu'u Wa'awa'a. It's a two hour drive each way, so I can't go there often. Pu'u Wa'awa'a was cited by the early Hawaiian botanist Rock as being the richest forest in the Hawaiian islands, in terms of plant species. Since then, nearly 100 years of ranching and illegal logging have ravaged the area. It isn't as barren as the ranch leases that ring Mauna Kea and across the Waimea Plain through North Kohala, but the environmental losses are still staggering. (It isn't nearly as bad as the destruction of the North/East slopes of Haleakala, on East Maui, though.) The dry forest restoration efforts are underway, and with the large stockpile of rare plant species in the area it is a very significant restoration project. Until the 1980's the forest reserve above the ranched area was a notable home for several endangered bird species, including 'akepa, Hawai'i creeper and 'alala.

I collected a large number of new plant photos for my galleries, including kauila, 'ohe makai, halapepe, hibiscadelphus hualalaiensis, and delissea undulata. Delissea undulata is notable for being thought to be extinct for over 20 years before a single individual was found. The entire species is now descended from this one plant, which is a genetic bottleneck many Hawaiian plant species currently face, and it isn't clear how that will effect the future of the species. The individuals I saw were all very healthy, and flowering vigoriously. A number of other species planted there are extinct in the wild, or drawn from a very tiny number of wild plants. The population is quite similar to kipuka puaulu in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, and long ago tree species were actually brought to kipuka puaulu from Pu'u Wa'awa'a, to preserve them.

We stayed within the ranch pastures and forest restoration areas. We didn't get up into the forest reserve on the slopes of Hualalai, above the pastures. I am not used to seeing the leeward bird species, particularly the far greater numbers of alien species. (This area was, and still is, where most alien bird species are introduced to the island.) We only saw two native species - 'amakihi and 'io. Game birds running around included peacock, black francolin, Erckel's francolin, wild turkey and kalij pheasant. I don't recall california quail, but doubtless they were there. Saffron finch and warbling silverbill were notably abundant. The usual assortment of other "weed species" were present - house finch, japanese white-eye, northern cardinal, northern mockingbird, myna, eurasian skylark, yellow-fronted canary, etc.
Total Comments 2


Thanks for your work restoring the habitat. Is the 'alala susceptible to avian malaria like the honeycreepers? A quick look at that area puts its elevation on the margins of the mosquito zone, but would native dry forest in good condition lack the standing water in which mosquitos could breed?
Posted Monday 7th July 2008 at 17:16 by emupilot emupilot is offline
bkrownd's Avatar
I don't know which diseases effect them, except for the most important - toxoplasmosis which they apparently got from eating cat poop. It's very dry and dusty in the ranch pastures, but ranches also mean lots of reservoirs and watering troughs and other kinds of random water catches. There are plenty of pigs to create broken hapu'u trunk water catches. I don't suspect they'll try to put any 'alala here for a few decades, until reforestation is well underway. The forest reserve on the north face of Hualalai is quite small, and it's very isolated from other forested areas by ranches and development. The area we were at is about 3600 feet, and the lower edge of the forest reserve is about 3900 feet. I didn't encounter any mosquitoes there on Sunday, even down at the gate on the highway.

This time of year mosquitoes are up to at least 4000 feet on the wet side.
Posted Monday 7th July 2008 at 19:15 by bkrownd bkrownd is offline
Updated Monday 7th July 2008 at 23:31 by bkrownd
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