How do you know what to plant where? Developing a climate-resilient restoration approach that combines functional, climate, and geographic data

A sun-dappled, dense understory of ferns mixes with mature ʻōhiʻa trees
Future changes to climate may necessitate shifting the composition of plant communities to build climate-resistant ecosystems. (Photo: USGS)

Choosing plant species for restoration can be a difficult and value-laden process. Information gaps are compounded when considering climate change, as there is often a lack of information on appropriate species mixtures best suited for adaptation to future climatic conditions. To build climate-resilient ecosystems in lowland wet forests in Hawaiʻi, management will need to take a landscape-level approach that integrates the shifting niches of native and non-native species under these new climate regimes. We hypothesize that new Hawaiian forest communities can be built using native indigenous and non-native non-invasive species that will be resilient to future climates in Hawaiʻi.

For this project, we plan to develop restoration strategies for Hawaiian lowland wet forests that combine species distribution modeling and multivariate trait-based approaches. We will develop a new partnership, the Lowland Wet Forest Working Group (LWFWG), to synergize the varied experiences of partner agencies and to choose focal species. In this complementary approach, niches of chosen species will be examined from both climatic and resource-use angles, bringing the fundamental and realized niche concepts into restoration planning. The combination of the two approaches can provide a template for developing restoration prescriptions that promote resilience in the face of global changes, which can then further be tested with field experiments.





Rebecca Ostertag
Professor of Biology, UH Hilo


Konapiliahi Dancil
Jonathan Price
Professor of Geography, UH Hilo


Craig Blaisdell
Hawai‘i Army National Guard Environmental Program
Kalena Blakemore
Office of Hawaiian Affairs
Susan Cordell
Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry
Cindy (Jaya) Dupuis
Hawaiʻi Environmental Restoration
Natalie Kurashima
Kamehameha School
Namaka Whitehead
Kamehameha School