Rare plant stabilization projects at Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, 1998-2008

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Belfield, Thomas; Tunison, Tim; Chase, Jonathan; McDaniel, Sierra
report description
Approximately 15% of the native vascular plant flora of Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park (HAVO) is listed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as endangered, threatened, candidate endangered, or species of concern. Another 15% is considered to be rare in HAVO by park botanists. Restoration actions including alien ungulate and invasive plant control are underway in many areas of the park, and common native vegetation is noticeably recovering in some areas. However, rare plant surveys in the 1990’s indicated that little recovery of rare plant species populations was occurring in spite of partial recovery of park ecosystems. This is understandable in that rare plant research in the park indicates that rare plants in recovering ecosystems are limited by rodents, slugs, loss of pollinators, small population size, and other factors not affected by landscape-level restoration. From 1998-2008, HAVO implemented a program of 10 projects to stabilize populations of 42 of the 62 species in HAVO listed by the USFWS, 12 species not listed but rare throughout the park, and seven species rare in one of the seven ecosystems targeted for rare plant species stabilization. An additional 26 uncommon and common species were outplanted in conjunction with rare plant stabilization, largely for the purpose of restoring plant communities or plant community diversity. Stabilization through augmentation and reintroduction involves establishing enough individuals and small populations to maintain species until recovery efforts could be formulated and implemented. Stabilization was carried out by greenhouse propagation and outplanting with the goal of meeting the Hawai`i/Pacific Plant Restoration Coordinating Committee (HPPRCC) standards of three populations of 25 reproductive individuals per population for long-lived perennials or 50 individuals per population of short-lived perennials. Seed additions were used in three sites. Plantings were placed in 31 locations across seven ecosystems of the park including coastal strand, lowland dry-mesic forest, mid-elevation woodland, montane rain forest, montane mesic forest, upper montane, and subalpine. Plantings were monitored for growth, vigor, and the presence of flowers or fruits, typically one of more times for 1-4 years; all plantings except those in the montane mesic forest were monitored in 2009 or 2010, after 6-12 years.