RESEARCH PROJECT

Assessing the success and vulnerability of Hawaiian rare plant introductions to inform future stabilization efforts

Close up of two delicate 6-petalled white flowers against dark green leaves; a black round seedpod is visible to the left.
Many Hawaiian plants are critically endangered, like this Hawaiian Gardenia or nāʻū. (Photo: CCby2.0, David Eickhoff)

Hawaiʻi is known as the “endangered species capital of the world.” Due to more than a century of habitat destruction, spread of invasive species, and decline of pollinators and seed dispersers, Hawaiʻi is now home to 400 endangered plant species, most of which are found nowhere else in the world. Hawaiʻi conservation managers have spent the last two decades putting enormous effort into trying to reverse this situation by carefully re-introducing thousands of rare plants into new sites within protected forests. Today, however, as climate change shifts patterns of temperature, rainfall, and interactions among species, the long-term ability of reintroduced populations to persist is unknown. Similarly, managers do not have the necessary information to identify which sites might be most suitable for future rare plant re-introductions.

This project aims to provide rare plant managers with this important information through a collaboration between researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi and the United States Geological Survey and resource managers at the Army Natural Resources Program–Oʻahu (ANRPO) and the Hawaiʻi Plant Prevention Extinction Program (PEPP). The team will synthesize data from unprecedented datasets collected by ANRPO and PEPP that include 20 years of census data for more than 300 populations of 38 rare plant species. Through a series of workshops across the state, researchers will share and cross-validate results with the experiences and knowledge of rare plant experts, including managers and cultural practitioners. By collaboratively identifying which sets of management and climatic conditions best predict the success of plant reintroductions, and where those conditions may be found in the future under climate change scenarios, we can help ensure the survival of some of our most treasured resources.

PROJECT DETAILS

FUNDED:

FY2023

PI:

Tamara Ticktin
Professor of Botany, UH Mānoa

Co-Is:

Clay Trauernicht
Associate Specialist, UH Mānoa
Tim Chambers
Center for Plant Conservation Officer, ANRPO
Lucas Fortini
Research Ecologist, PIERC, USGS
Julia Douglas
School of Life Sciences, UH Mānoa

Collaborators:

Matt Keir
DLNR
Susan Ching
PEPP, DLNR
Lauren Weisenberger
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Kim Shay
Laukahi