Hawaii’s native ecosystems have been under severe attach for well over 200 years now. Although habitat degradation has occurred (and is still occurring!!!) in many forms, native plants in Hawai’i have suffered four distinctly devastating blows to their survival in recent history:
- Large scale habitat destruction in the islands began with severe overgrazing by introduced livestock(cattle, horses, goats, sheep, etc.) in the early to mid 1800’s.
- Commercial agriculture in the mid to late 1800’s involved the clearing of thousands upon thousands of acres of native ecosystems to make way for mono crops of sugar cane and pineapple.
- The decrease of commercial agriculture over the past sixty years has paved the way for massive urban and residential development projects, many of which have stampeded their way back into valleys, up onto ridges, and down onto the beaches which managed to escape the brunt of the previous attacks from livestock and agriculture.
- Countless species of invasive alien plants have become established in our islands and many more are aggressively establishing themselves as we speak. Introduced by humans (some by accident, but most intentionally!!!), these invasive plants severely out compete natives for food, water, sunlight, and space and have already come to dominate vast expanses of our delicate island ecosystems.
In sum, these influences have taken a staggering toll on Hawaii’s natural environment. Our lowland dry forests have taken perhaps the worst blow, as they represent the region most directly impacted by livestock, agricultural, and developmental degradation. Sadly enough, only about 5% of our native lowland dry forests remain today Statewide!!! This is an especially devastating fact considering this ecotype once held the largest diversity of native plant species in Hawai’i.
“How can I help give this story a happy ending?”, You ask?
Buy Native Hawaiian Plants!!!