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Kauai is Amazing! A Guide to Ecosystems and our Rare Plant Programs.

By Konane Henline

Aloha, Did you know that "Hawai'i has numerous ecosystems and 8 different climate zones!!? Lowland dry forests, the coastal strands, wet rain forests, moderately humid forests, lakes, marshes, wet rain forests, ponds, swamps, freshwater streams, estuaries, alpine stone deserts, sub-alpine parklands, and bogs are all part of the Hawaiian ecosystem" (TravelPeri, 2023). This is why we chuckle when you check our weather for a "good day" and encourage you not to cancel plans based on "the weather report"- a bathing suit and a pair of hiking boots can go a long way for a fun day. "Hawaii also has a unique coral ecosystem with nearly 1,250 species thriving among the reefs; scientists also regularly discover new species among the corals and at other locations of the archipelago"(TravelPeri, 2023). Did someone say let's go snorkeling!!! Or better yet... scuba! Please do remember that stepping on our reef and touching our sea creatures is a big NO-NO. And of course, throw on a rash guard and/or REEF FRIENDLY sunscreen for sun protection (there is a separate blog about this if you need guidance on what to look for). Be safe by always checking for signs and/or with lifeguards. "The Hawaiian Islands are home to amazing array of unique plants. Today it is estimated that there are approximately 1,400 vascular plant taxa (including species, subspecies, and varieties) native to the State of Hawai‘i, and nearly 90 percent of these are found nowhere else in the world. Due to the Hawaiian archipelago’s extreme isolation, it is believed that the ecosystems of Hawaiʻi and all the organisms which comprise them have evolved in relative solitude, free from many of the competitive forces which characterize continental ecosystems. Thus, despite tremendous diversity and high rates of endemism, the native biota of Hawaiʻi are very sensitive to changes in their ecosystems, and many species have declined beginning with the arrival of humans, the clearing of land for agriculture, and the introduction of non-native plants and animals. These threats have escalated dramatically in historic times, leading to the widespread loss of many native organisms and their habitats. Today Hawaiʻi is often referred to as the “Endangered Species Capital of the World.” More than 100 plant taxa have already gone extinct, and over 200 are considered to have 50 or fewer individuals remaining in the wild. Officially, 366 of the Hawaiian plant taxa are listed as Endangered or Threatened by Federal and State governments, and an additional 48 species are Proposed as Endangered. While only comprising less than one percent of the Unites States land mass, Hawaiʻi contains 44 percent of the nation’s Endangered and Threatened plant species! The Hawaiian Rare Plant Program is headed by the State Botanist, within the Native Ecosystems Protection and Management section of the Division of Forestry and Wildlife administration and seeks to perpetuate the native flora of the islands" (DLNR, 2023).

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