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Challenges

Within the lifetimes of our children, Hawai‘i may lose most of her remaining native forests, impacting native species, ecosystem services, and traditional cultural practices that those native forests support.

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Hawaii’s incredible native diversity is a world renowned biological treasure, but in recent decades, our state has become the “extinction capital of the world.” Hawai‘i is home to the largest number of federally listed threatened or endangered plant and animal species in the United States. Some 343 listed plant and 394 listed animal species occur as dwindling populations in isolated refugia, and face a growing list of precarious threats.

The socio-political, economic, demographic, and agricultural changes that have characterized the last two centuries have greatly accelerated the loss of native habitat and associated species, invasion by non-native invasive species, novel disturbances such as fire and climate change, and the degradation of traditional connections linking people to landscapes. Within the lifetimes of our children, Hawai‘i may lose most of her remaining native forests, impacting native species, ecosystem services, and traditional cultural practices that those native forests support.

The ramifications of this ecological loss extend beyond that of endangered species to affect the people of Hawai‘i directly. Degradation of the integrity, vitality, and wholeness of native ecosystems diminishes our state’s cultural diversity and richness. Because of the deep human relationships and history defining Hawaiian landscapes and seascapes, loss of native ecosystems compromises the identity and well being of all of Hawaii’s citizens.

As we face the environmental challenges of the twenty-first century that have correlated to a declining connection to the land, Native Hawaiian examples of resource stewardship provide important insights and potential solutions. There is hope to protect what remains, but our time is running out.

Threats to Our Forests

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Strawberry Guava

Strawberry Guava (Psidium cattleianum) has invaded hundreds of thousands of acres of ‘Ōhi‘a Lehua since its introduction in the early eighteen hundreds.

Threat to ʻŌhiʻa

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Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death

Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, caused by the fungus, Ceratocytis fimbriata, has infested an estimated 34,000 acres on Hawai‘i Island, and is major cause for alarm. According to some officials, Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death has the potential to devastate ʻŌhiʻa forests.

 

Gracing over a million acres of the Hawaiian Islands, ‘Ōhi‘a Lehua forests provide food and shelter to hundreds of native bird and insect species, produce valuable wood, support honey production, and are vital for Hawaii’s watershed cycles.
A pillar of Hawaii’s host culture and a foundation for her unique natural ecosystems, ‘Ōhi‘a Lehua is rapidly disappearing from lowland areas and is threatened with extinction across its broad range. Our mission addresses the threats to Hawaii’s forests through a dynamic approach that honors the past and prepares the way for a vibrant future.
The ‘I‘iwi, whose long, curved bill is adapted to the ʻŌhiʻa Lehua blossom. The ‘I‘iwi is threatened by habitat loss, climate change, and mosquito-transmitted diseases such as avian malaria and avian pox. ‘Ōhi‘a Lehua and ‘I‘iwi depend on one another—these birds nest in ʻŌhiʻa’s branches, and are important pollinators for the tree.
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The Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests is a 501C3 incorporated in the state of Hawai‘i.

Contact Us

c/o Cades Schutte LLP
P.O. Box 1525 Kamuela, Hawaii 
96743, USA
808-895-6991
kokua@akakaforests.org
Copyright © Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests 2019. All Rights Reserved.

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