Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wind, Wings and Waves

Hawaiʻi is the world’s most-isolated, populated-place, we are about: 2,500-miles from the US mainland, Samoa & Alaska; 4,000-miles from Tokyo, New Zealand & Guam, and 5,000-miles from Australia, the Philippines & Korea.

We are surrounded by a vast ocean and sometimes naively feel isolated, separated and protected from outside threats and negative impacts.  Unfortunately, we take too much for granted.

Formation of Hawaiian Island chain started more than 70 million years ago.  Yet despite millions of years of isolation, plants, animals and insects found their way to Hawaiʻi ... on Wind, Wings and Waves.

Some seeds, spores and insects arrived on the wind.  A few birds flew or were blown off course; in them or stuck to their feathers were more seeds.  Some seeds managed to float here on ocean currents or waves.  Ocean currents also carried larval forms of fish, invertebrates, algae and even our freshwater stream species.

It is estimated that one plant or animal arrived and successfully colonized every 30,000 years.  Over millions of years in isolation, these original plant and animal species changed, forming into our native species.

The first alien species arrived with Polynesians in the year 300 A.D. or so. In 1778, Hawaiʻi was placed on the world map; and so started new invasive species pathways.

It is estimated that in the last 230+ years, as many as 10,000 plants have been introduced: 343 new marine/brackish water species; Hawaiʻi went from 0 native land reptiles to 40; 0 amphibians to 6 (including coqui) and there is a new insect in Hawaiʻi every day.

The greatest threat to Hawaiʻi’s native species is invasive species.

Hawaiʻi has the dubious distinction of being called the endangered species capital of the world and unfortunately leads the nation in endangered species listings with 354 federally listed threatened or endangered listed species.

With only 0.2% of the land area of the United States, nearly 75% of the nation’s historically documented plant and bird extinctions are from Hawaiʻi.  We have more endangered species per square mile on these islands than any other place on Earth.

Impacts from invasive species are real and diverse: Tourism and agriculture-based economy; Forests’ ability to channel rainwater into our watersheds; Survival of native species found nowhere else; Health of residents and visitors; and Quality of life that makes Hawaiʻi a special place.

Today, the pathways to paradise are diverse, including: air & ship cargo; ship hulls & ballast water; hand-carry/luggage; mail & freight forwarders; forestry activities; horticulture trade; aquaculture; pet trade; botanical gardens and agriculture experiment stations (or simply on you and your clothing.)

While I was at DLNR, we formed and I co-chaired the Hawai‘i Invasive Species Council, a multi-jurisdictional agency, established to provide policy level direction, coordination, and planning among state departments, federal agencies, and international and local initiatives.

Our focus was primarily on two actions: the control and eradication of harmful invasive species infestations throughout the State; and prevention the introduction of other invasive species that may be potentially harmful.

We must continue to be vigilant in stopping new pests from coming in and eradicating those that have already made it to our shores.

We share a common goal.  Whether your concern is in having enough water, healthy reefs, diverse forests, a healthy economy or a healthy family, we all want the same thing:  To make and keep Hawaiʻi a great place to live.

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