Four alumni students of Kamehameha School whom have received scholarships for continued education, put their hands and hearts into the soils of Keau’ohana yesterday! Their exuberance and perseverance over a long hard work day was impressive.
Kamahameha school would be proud to have witnessed their performance! These young women accomplished a lot of invasive species removal, leaving a large area clear and free for natives to prosper! They concluded the day with a chant for our forest crew, and we hope people will take the time to enjoy this brief video.
Yesterday, HER accommodated a young group of artists from the Saba Kinder Art(SKA) Academy in Duluth, Georgia! Len Kar Chang, who coordinated the special event with her sister, Leng Chee Chang, (who works here at the University of Hilo researching chemical components and possible benefits of various native species), appreciated the opportunity, in her words: “ to engage in our project, and gain insights into Hawaii’s extraordinary ecosystem”.
Together we accomplished the larger part of Keau’ohana’s central volunteer loop, leaving it shinning once more. Please enjoy one of the brief videos the group produced of our protocol time prior to efforts conducted in the forest. It is a sweet glimpse into the magic of this place!
A Deputy Regional Forester meeting was held May 22nd to discuss forest restoration in light of Rapid ‘Ohi’a Death (ROD), which included a splendid hike up to Pu’u Heiheiahulu, a very important facet of Wao Kele O Puna’s 126,000 acres located above Keau’ohana.
Wao Kele O Puna is the largest remaining native lowland forest above 1,000 feet, and the view from the pu’u was astounding as we looked over vast early succession ‘ohi’a/uluhe forest. We also had the privilege of glimpsing into the pu’u from its rim at a protected native remnant of stunning biodiversity, where large colonies of the endangered ha’iwale (Cyrtandra nanawalensis) were recently discovered.
This was certainly a highlight to the day, which Kalena and Kirk from Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) graciously facilitated for participating United State Forest Service (USFS) representatives of Califonia, O’ahu, and Hilo. Big Island Invasive Species (BIISC), and Hawaii Environmental Restoration.
A visit to Keau’ohana followed, in which discussion was held about HER efforts over the past decade, as ROD progressed in conjunction with HER intensive restoration measures. HER crew has witnessed the collapse of our primary native canopy to ROD, as it worked hard to secure the Keau’ohana understory. HER persists in its mission to protect what remains among the last of Hawaii’s biodiverse native lowland plant assemblage despite the dramatic effects of ROD.
We all hope there will be a future turning point in which shade will be re-established on the site, but even as a more open forest, Keau’ohana serves as a necessary living classroom of native biodiversity, vegetation issues, and restorative solutions. It is an invaluable representation of the past and the stark reality of human impact.
Although we generally don’t facilitate very large groups in Keau’ohana due to its delicate state, there were 34 of us this Monday the 15th as HER hosted a special group of young honor students from Kea’au Middle School. A prior event with them had been cancelled due to rain, and though it rained all night and morning leading to the event, this group was determined to persevere rain or shine.
We were however, unexpectedly blessed with dry comfort beneath cooling clouds for our restoration efforts, which made for a very enjoyable experience! Kea’au middle schoolers were troopers, helping out in a very open and disturbed area of the forest. Among half a dozen species, there were plenty kukae maile vines that were heroically conquered!
Thank you Kea’au girls and boys for helping out the native forest from being bullied by invasive species, and for making your teachers and school proud!
HER joins the Lowland Wet Forest Working Group (LWFWG) to discuss restoration issues and strategies in our region. This is invaluable opportunity for forest specialists focusing on various local restoration projects to network and support one another in the choosing of restoration species; a serious question for the future of Hawai’i at this time of environmental crisis.
As part of this exchange, we will be visiting one another’s sites to discuss this particular question for each location. Our first visit was on May 5th at the Keaukaha Military Reservation (KMR), where Becky Ostertag from the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH), and Susan Cordell from the Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry (IPIF), have been developing experimental plots under the Hawaii Army National Guard Environmental Program over the past decade.
HER enjoyed the occasion to witness in action the current results of their research with hybrid ecosystems, utilizing mixed native and non-native species to reduce invasion, promote native biodiversity and sequester carbon. Through this partnership we hope to develop a climate-resilient restoration approach that combines functional traits, climate, and geographic data in building plant communities that improve ecosystem functioning and are self-sustaining.
Thus far HER out-plantings in Keau’ohana have focused on native species alone, but due to the dramatic effects of ROD on the site, we now consider the possibility of integrating a few non-native/non-invasive species for the building of much needed shade. At this junction, we may utilize a mixed approach in which more intact areas within the site remain entirely native, while more open disturbed areas receive a different treatment. Already some monkey pod trees have been planted on outer edges to clearly separate the site from the threatening invasion.
A healthy 20 volunteers showed up in Keau’ohana for Native Hawaiian Plant Month on April 17th, and 55 native seedlings were planted by noon! Earth Week has also been properly celebrated by this special occasion!
It is rewarding to receive local community assistance, 9 of whom are members of Hawaii Eco Retreat (HER, just as ours) on the Red Road! They were very inspired by the event and have requested exploring a regular partnership; HER joins HER in a shared mission of caring for the land! We welcome their ‘ohana warmly to help support our shared community native rainforest of Keau’ohana!
Thanks to all who participated in this successful occasion; we sincerely appreciate you taking part in betterment and beauty upon this precious earth! And let us not forget to give Ann Kobsa yet another warm thank you for her generous plant donations that continue to enrich the forest’s integrity!
Yesterday, March 27th, HER hosted a volunteer group with Pacific Quest (PQ), a residential treatment program based in Hilo, Hawaii, serving young adults and adolescents in crisis. PQ achieves its mission for change through horticultural therapy, whole-person wellness, individualized clinical care, healthy community living, and Rites of Passage.
In response to overwhelming support from the staff team, Pacific Quest is beginning their community outreach program through our newly formed partnership. In this way, they hope to contribute to HER’s important work while celebrating our shared values of environmental education through restoring our relationship with the land. Our first day together was bright and energetic, and we very much look forward to a continued alliance!
On Saturday, March 25th, so many active community members joined together for the Red Road Resource Fair, an event which took place at Sea View SPACE as a part of the Resilience Hub. This was an opportunity to gather as a community and learn about resources, make plans for disaster preparedness and celebrate our assets with local grindz from the SPACE gardens! There were Resource Booths, discussions, Neighborhood Watch, Seed/Plant Exchange, Circus and Music, and much amusement for the Keiki.
HER tabled the event, informing people about plant issues and solutions in Puna, sharing about our environmental work in the community, and rallying new volunteers! I was deeply touched by the Sea View community members for creating such a successful community event, and for modeling a healthy and sustainable living example to all of us.
On March 19th, eight of us shared some sweet time in Keau’ohana for Spring Equinox. Under such sunny, hot and dry conditions lately, we did not opt to plant keiki, but rather helped clear the understory of young budding clidemia, erichtites, thimble berry, and even tackled kukae maile vines to help out natives!
Though the forest has an open canopy and suffers damages due to the inevitable tree fall of large ‘ohi’a that died over the past 8 years due to ROD, its beauty and biodiversity is still striking. All who spend time immersed in the ancient forest composition are renewed and enriched.
We are once again grateful to several returning volunteers who travelled from Kona side and up Volcano to participate in this event. It was delightful to share discussion over lunch and get to know each other some!
On February 6, 2023, a group of researchers and natural resource managers were hosted in the field by Jaya Dupuis of Hawaii Environmental Restoration. The purpose of the field trip was to visit Keauʻohana Forest Reserve to collect leaf cuttings from Cyrtandra nanawaleensis (haʻiwale), an endemic and endangered plant only found in east Hawaiʻi Island.
When seedlings are large enough, they will be transplanted into larger pots and then eventually outplanted back into the field. The plants will be grown at the greenhouse facilites at Keaukaha Military Reservation as a part of a contract and collaboration with the Hawaii Army National Guard Environmental Office. Outplants will be put back into the appropriate habitat for haʻiwale, the lowland wet forest, and will be monitored for growth and survival.