Everywhere I look on the island I see invasive species taking over and choking out the fragile native and endemic species. It is an epidemic reaching from the top of the mountain all the way to the reef. The sight and statistics of the non-natives here are staggering....just take a drive to Hana and you can see the destruction of these aggressive foreigners mile after mile. It is so depressing to me to see this problem getting worse year after year that I can hardly write about it.
Most of these species arrive here by accident in luggage, shoes, cargo, plant material, floral material, food products or as hitchhikers, but sadly some are actually brought here or introduced on purpose; then years later are found to be killers to the native species. Glycine clover vine for the cattle released into Ulupalakua has run wild and now threatens the rainforest in Makaalae & Hana area. I do not think that we can eradicate this vine even if we tried, but we should try to do something to stop the spread of this plant and other species like it (miconia, and many others). There are so many species that are threatening the native habitat that I can't even count. It is not just plants, there are threats from every angle.
There are literally dozens of these invasives all over the island and I think that our state needs to step up to the plate and do a lot more than is currently being done...it is not enough! There are some concerned groups, leaders, and people that are dedicating their life to help the severe problems relating to this issue. People like Art Medeiros, coordinator of the Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership that are really dedicated and trying desperately to make a difference in this enormous problem that the entire state is faced with. I think that we should access the problem plants that are already here and then form a plan to deal with the most destructive right away. Then go on from there. According to this opinion sent by Art to the Maui News, he says that we should import safe insects to deal with the strawberry guava from Brazil or we may not have our mighty Koa tree in the watershed anymore. Strawberry guava grow much faster than the koa and choke out all the space. They spread extremely fast and from what Art said the imported insect would only attack the strawberry guava and in fact it will not kill the guava but just slow down the growth so that the koa would have a chance to re-establish itself in the forest and populate at a faster rate than it can now fighting for survival with the strawberry guava.
Basically our ecosystems are sick, endangered, and under attack. We need to malama them now, while there is still a chance for the fragile endemics to survive. There are many ways that we all can help out the 'aina and protect the SPECIAL, RARE, SPECIES of Hawaii.
Number one is to spread awareness and educate visitors and the public as to the problem and what to do or help. Next is to create and enforce an assessment-risk-plan for new material being brought into the state. Next create and enforce strict laws and policy to protect the fragile native species that are left alive now! In the past Hawaii would get a new species every 35,000 years or so on their own, now it is about 1-2 new species per month....think about that!!! I am sure that you are aware of the problems, but most of the public here do not have a clue. People bring in new plants all the time and do not think twice as to the impact that could further destroy our beautiful environment. I think that most people if educated would do what they can to help and spread awareness. I do what I can whenever possible, by volunteering, educating others and myself and being conscious to the problem. There are several websites that are of great help for anyone interested in helping or becoming informed.
This information according to one of my favorite websites http://www.hear.org/
The invasive species problem in Hawaii:
The silent invasion of Hawai'i by insects, disease organisms, snakes, weeds, and other pests is the single greatest threat to Hawaii's economy and natural environment and to the health and lifestyle of Hawaii's people. Pests already cause millions of dollars in crop losses, the extinction of native species, the destruction of native forests, and the spread of disease. But many more harmful pests now threaten to invade Hawai'i and wreak further damage. Even one new pest--like the brown tree snake--could forever change the character of our islands. Stopping the influx of new pests and containing their spread is essential to Hawaii's future well-being.
Despite the efforts of more than 20 state, federal, and private agencies, unwanted alien pests are entering Hawai'i at an alarming rate - about 2 million times more rapid than the natural rate. In 1993, the federal Office of Technology Assessment declared Hawaii's alien pest species problem the worst in the nation. Hawaii's evolutionary isolation from the continents, and its modern role as the commercial hub of the Pacific make these islands particularly vulnerable to destruction by alien pests. Gaps in current pest prevention systems and a lack of public awareness add further to this serious problem.
You can also go to MISC or Hawaii invasive species committee to learn more. The website is http://www.hawaiiinvasivespecies.org/iscs/misc/
Also I encourage everyone to go out and volunteer, learn, and get involved. Go to Haleakala National Park and see the beauty, and learn, go to a NARS (Natural Area Refuge Systems) wildlife reserve. These places are protected and you can see the beauty all around. Also go to Maui Nui Botanical Gardens and enjoy!!! We have many species that only occur here in the whole world.....think about it.....That is special and needs protection and care from all of us who live in this gorgeous Hawaii. http://www.fws.gov/refuges/ and http://www.mnbg.org/home.html These websites have volunteer info and great links.