Hawai'i Environmental Restoration (HER), our 501(c)(3) nonprofit environmental volunteer service organization (www.hawaiienvironmentalrestoration.org), was established to help restore and preserve the natural integrity of Hawai'i's environment. Prior to the launching of HER, our project's fiscal sponsor was Malama O Puna (MOP) Environmental Resource Center located in Pahoa town. Our primary project focuses on the restoration and preservation of Keau'ohana State Forest Reserve, the largest and most intact lowland rainforest remaining below 1,000 feet in the State of Hawai'i. Since June of 2014, Keau'ohana has undergone an intensive restoration process that has focu... read more Hawai'i Environmental Restoration (HER), our 501(c)(3) nonprofit environmental volunteer service organization (www.hawaiienvironmentalrestoration.org), was established to help restore and preserve the natural integrity of Hawai'i's environment. Prior to the launching of HER, our project's fiscal sponsor was Malama O Puna (MOP) Environmental Resource Center located in Pahoa town. Our primary project focuses on the restoration and preservation of Keau'ohana State Forest Reserve, the largest and most intact lowland rainforest remaining below 1,000 feet in the State of Hawai'i. Since June of 2014, Keau'ohana has undergone an intensive restoration process that has focused on the control of invasive plant species, and the planting of native species on ~30 acres of the most biodiverse portion of the reserve. The restoration site serves as a living classroom for volunteer students/community groups/individuals from around the world, to learn about native versus invasive species, native forest restoration, and about the general Hawai'i plant issues and solutions. Community outreach events and public presentations in schools and with community groups, educate people on how they could help support the lowland environment by making wise plant choices for sustainable living in their own lives. Project Director, Jaya C. Dupuis, M.S., President of HER, is a tropical conservation biologist and environmental scientist from UHH Hilo, with 30 years of experience in sustainable development in Hawaii. Her staff includes 4-8 field technicians, an outreach coordinator, and a CPA. Because Keau'ohana Forest Reserve is State property, its public purpose is to preserve, protect and restore the property and the natural resources thereon for future generations. Of five State Forest Reserves set aside for conservation in 1903, Keau'ohana is the only Puna reserve in which the original forest composition has not been replaced by invasive species due to lack of management. As the Hawaiian island ecosystems continue to be lost to development, agriculture and invasive species, there is an urgent need for conservation planning and implementation. Maintaining representative areas of all ecosystem types is a major long-term goal of conservation; encompassing the full range of biodiversity across the entire elevation gradient is critical. Keau'ohana is today a last remaining lowland reservoir of rare native species, and its surviving biota is of great biological significance. Protection of this native ecotype provides habitat for many rare native and endangered species. Keau'ohana has been challenged by a number of environmental events since the launching of its efforts in 2014 (Hurricane Iselle, Rapid Ohia Death, 2018 lava event). The lava incident of 2018 thwarted our efforts for over half of the year, and there has since been much need to regain leverage once again over fast-growing weeds. The loss of canopy due to ROD poses a stronger need to develop new shade in support of the relatively intact native understory. Although many native canopy trees are being planted on site, it will take time to reach levels whereby less manual labor is needed. Nonetheless, our perseverance has demonstrated that with a reasonable amount of support, this precious resource can and is being preserved and protected successfully. As the most intact native lowland wet forest readily available to the public, HER offers invaluable learning opportunity. School groups from grades 7 up to university level, both local and from around the world, have collaborated with HER for both restoration opportunity and for research study. Quarterly work parties have reached hundreds of local residents and visitors coming to Hawaii wishing for a more meaningful experience. HER has a growing active volunteer community, with over 400 subscribed volunteer members, and a much larger Face Book audience. There were 627 volunteer forest restoration work hours generously offered in 2019 alone; and several thousand since 2014. Through forest, classroom, and special outreach events, HER inspires a growing audience with every year. HER strives toward reconstituting the native forest composition and integrity to the extent possible (strive toward > 90% native composition). Knowledge of plant phenology and dispersal is utilized in order to more effectively manage the native plant community; control strategies prioritize certain weed species when appropriate, based on timing of seed maturation and persistence. The crew responds as best as possible to Keau'ohana restoration needs as they continue to evolve over time. An early-detection and rapid-response capacity will continue to be incorporated for any and all newly established pests or potentially invasive outliers/harmful plant species that threaten the native composition of the forest. Our restoration effort involves a variety of control strategies to manage and/or eradicate all invasive species. Control methods largely include hand-pulling and composting of individuals that can be pulled, and managing existing compost piles as needed; applying localized injections of herbicide to cambium layer of larger stems and trees that cannot be pulled; and spraying larger clusters of invasion with a foliar application of herbicide. Use of more toxic substances is minimized to avoid collateral damage to proximate native species. Other daily tasks include trail maintenance and improvement, and the breakdown and consolidation of dead wood along passages and in support of native species in the interior where needed. Our Koa'e native plant nursery supplies a vast majority of seedlings for native tree out-planting, including key restoration species such as the native 'ohe (Polyscias hawaiensis), species already present in the subcanopy and understory layers. A number of other native species that may respond well are out-planted in order to increase biodiversity and restoration potential in more open areas. Propagation efforts include direct seeding of locally collected seeds, and scattering of fast growing shade-producing native species such as mamaki. More than thirty of the endangered Cyrtandra nanawalensis colonies have been located in the site area, and receive priority attention through the removal of surrounding weeds to foster their growth and success. Out-planting of this endangered species is also conducted under a threatened and endangered permit from the DLNR/DOFAW. Much of Keau'ohana retains a strong native component and is responding resiliently to our restoration efforts over the past half-dozen years. The work we have provided shows that with proper management and minimal resources, it is possible to protect and preserve a native forest despite very difficult environmental conditions such as hurricanes, fungal diseases, feral pig activity, loss of a primary canopy, and work restrictions due to lava events such as was experienced in the Puna District in 2018. In tropical areas, it is however critical to continually sustain restoration efforts because the growth-rate of invasive species is relentlessly rapid. HER forest site and outreach/education measures, offers some of the most essential knowledge needed for the protection and improvement of Hawai'i's particularly fragile and compromised environment. There is a critical need for residents and tourists, adults and children, to become more conscientious with respect to human environmental impacts. The collapse of our local and global environment is a frightful phenomenon that stems from excessive human consumption and activity, and a lack of awareness on the degree upon which we rely on the earth for our very lives. Learning to distinguish between plant species that support rather than threaten our sustenance is as important as learning our letters and numbers at this point in time. Familiarizing ourselves on community levels, with basic information regarding the plant dynamics in our bioregions is fundamental to our survival. What we choose to plant or to neglect, impacts the general environment because plants know no boundaries, and naturalize and overtake our forests. We help people learn how to utilize and replace invasive plant species; establish an extended edible landscape; and re-incorporate native plant species into their immediate landscape. Our plant identification guide "Hawai'i Plant World Essentials" supports HER mission Statewide. We are committed to reaching beyond our local perimeters to touch the lives of people worldwide, to inspire enthusiasm in sustainable living practices.
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