Strangers in Paradise:

A Multi-Scale Study of the Spread of Alien Species into the Native Rainforests of Windward East Maui


This Web presentation is based on a poster Session presented at an Ecosystem Management Conference, Sacramento 10/94, and has been updated "regularly" ever since.

Robyn Myers

Ph.D. Landscape and Systems Ecology
Graduate Group in Ecology
University of California, Davis

Landscape Ecologist
Watershed Planning Services
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service



Mixed Native and Alien Rain Forest, Maui IMAGE:R.Myers 4/94

INTRODUCTION / ABSTRACT

Working with the State of Hawai`i and the Nature Conservancy of Hawai`i, I conducted a multi-scale study of the spread of alien plant species into the native rainforests of windward East Maui.

This research used current technology, at different scales, to evaluate vegetation changes in the watershed, including:

Using a landscape ecology approach, this multi-scale study addresses the EMWP priorities, by providing an integrative approach for identifying, detecting and predicting changes related to alien species spread into Hawai`i's native forests.

This research was submitted as a dissertation in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of doctor of philosophy in Ecology at the University of California, Davis.



Proceed Through the On-line Presentation for Further Information:

  1. The Hawaiian Islands as an Ecological Laboratory
  2. Conservation on the Island of Maui
  3. East Maui Management and Research
  4. The East Maui Watershed Partnership
  5. Aliens Invade East Maui
  6. Expected Results and Final Report to the Partnership
  7. Overview of Research Plan

Also available, an abstract and brief two page text summary of the Research.


1. The Hawai`ian Islands as an Ecological Laboratory


Hawaii from space IMAGE:Courtesy of NASA

Hawai`i is one of the most isolated island groups in the world.

In Hawai`i, more species face possible extinction than anywhere else in the United States.

Hawai`i is considered one of the best natural laboratories for studying ecology.

Research has shown:

Habitat destruction is considered the most important factor in species loss.

Native plants and animals are vulnerable to displacement by alien species invasions.

High rates of extinction are often due to habitat destruction and alien species invasion

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2. Conservation on the Island of Maui


I'iwi IMAGE: Courtesy N.P.S.

Maui's native rainforests are among the most imperiled in the world.

Of Hawai i's rare, threatened and endangered species, one third are found only on the island of Maui.

Ironically, some of the most intact and extensive native forests left in Hawai`i today occur in the Windward East Maui watershed.

The Windward East Maui watershed supports the State's largest concentration of endangered forest birds.

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3. East Maui Management and Research


Exotic Ipomoea Morning Glory vine, Keanae, Maui R.Myers 4/94

The forests that cover the Windward (North) side of Haleakala volcano, on the East side of Maui, are in trouble. Non-native (alien) plants and animals introduced to the islands by people are destroying these ancient forests, and killing many of Maui's endemic plants and animals.

Nearly two-thirds of Maui's original forests have already been lost. The forests that remain are in serious danger of being destroyed by introduced feral animals and aggressive weeds.

Several coordinated, interagency research programs are underway in windward East Maui watershed , by members of the East Maui Watershed Partnership.

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4. East Maui Watershed Partnership (EMWP)

In 1991 seven concerned landowners formed the East Maui Watershed Partnership (EMWP) to coordinate the resource management of 4,047 hectares of watershed ecosystem.

Two of the Partnership's Priorities:

  1. Develop and implement long term inventory and management plan for greater watershed.
  2. Provide a strategy to target known alien species, and prevent new alien species from entering the watershed.

This research has been designed to meet these priorities.

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5. Aliens Invade East Maui


Guava stand, Keanae ValleyR. Myers 10/95

Many of Hawaii's unique plant and animal species are now extinct or rare due to habitat loss and displacement by introduced species.

Beginning with the arrival of the polynesians, humans have dramatically changed the Hawai`ian landscape. Human land uses such as agriculture, water diversion, ranching and urban development have altered native habitats.

Alien plant species have been both accidentally and intentionally introduced.

Once established, alien plants often dominate disturbed areas in and adjacent to the forest, crowding out native plants and destroying native habitat systems.

Feral animals, especially pigs and goats, continue to degrade Maui's native rainforests by trampling and eating native plants. Their destructive activities also introduce alien weeds, pests, and diseases into the forest.

Statewide current efforts are focusing on controlling one particularly agressive invader: Miconia calvescens, a tree species in the melastome family from South and Central America. Miconia has invaded and destroyed native forests in Tahiti and other tropical islands. Introduced to Hawaii as an ornamental plant, miconia has spread into the forests of Oahu, Maui and the Big Island.

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6. Expected Results and Final Report to EMWP will:


Rainforest R.Myers 4/94

  1. Graphically show the areas under greatest threat of alien species invasion and in need of management action.
  2. Provide a history of land use and patterns of alien species presence and spread over last 40 years.
  3. Recommend which data scale to use to obtain what level of information on native and alien vegetation.
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7. Overview of the Research Design

An Overview of the Research Design, is available, describing the research questions, and goals of the three components of the research. Details on methods and progress to date can be found under each individual componant.
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Mahalo nui loa to the USDA NRCS, NASA, the Lindbergh Foundation, and the many people and organizations that support Robyn Myers' dissertation research.