The Green Leaf

Protecting Hawaii's endangered species

October 8th, 2015
Band-rumped storm-petrels in flight.  Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Band-rumped storm-petrels in flight. Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Hawaii, known as the endangered species capital of the world, is home to 10 animals and 39 plants under review for U.S. Endangered Species protections. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the proposal in late September.

The 49 species occur in 11 different habitat types, with 48 of them occurring nowhere else on Earth except Hawaii. These plants and animals are at risk of extinction due to invasive, non-native species, recreational activities, small population size and threats from erosion landslides and fire.

Listing these species, if approved, will boost ongoing conservation efforts to address these threats, prevent extinction and improve the ecology health of the islands.

Among the animals listed are the ‘ake‘ake, or band-rumped storm-petrel, which is a medium sized bird (primarily blackish-brown with a narrow white ban across the rump — found on the isles of Lehua, Kauai, Maui and Hawai‘i island, as well as Japan, the Galapagos islands and subtropical areas of the Atlantic. It is the smallest and rarest seabird that breeds in Hawaii.

"It's a very enigmatic seabird," said Andre Raine, Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project Coordinator. "No one's actually found an active nest for the species in Hawaii but we do know that they nest here...We've recorded their calls."

The storm-petrels are vulnerable to predators, including Polynesian rats, barn owls and feral cats. They have shallow wing beats, but glide long over the surface of the ocean. They nest in burrows in a variety of high-elevation, inland habitats. Only a single egg is laid per season, between May and June; nestlings fledge in October.

Only the Hawaii population is being proposed for the list, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and not the band-rumped storm-petrels that occur in Japan, the Galapagos and subtropical areas of the Atlantic.

The list also includes seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees in response to petitions from the Xerces Society, the Orangeblack Hawaiian damselfly and Anchialine pool shrimp found on Hawaii island and Maui.

Hylaeus assimulans, one of seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees proposed for endangered species protection. Photo creditL John Kaia/Xerces Society.

Hylaeus assimulans, one of seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees proposed for endangered species protection.
Photo credit: John Kaia/Xerces Society.

A total of 39 native plants, including the Maui kolea (Myrsine fosbergii), nanu (Gardenia remyi), Maui reedgrass (Calamagrostis expansa). Baker's loulu palm (Pritchardia bakeri) and ihi (Portulaca villosa). The Baker's loulu, named after Lyon Arboretum founder Ray Baker, is found in wet, windswept and grassy areas, and sometimes on steep slopes from about 1,500 to 2,100 feet at the extreme northern and southern ends of the Koolaus on Oahu. It has yellow flowers.

Seana Walsh, a conservation biologist at the National Tropical Botanical Garden, said: "Hawaii is so special for many reasons, one of them being our rich, highly endemic flora and fauna. Looking at this list of 39 plant taxa proposed for Federal listing, nearly a quarter of them are unique to Kauai, showcasing how narrowly endemic some of these taxa are. Every species depends upon others for its continued existence. If a species goes extinct, there is a cascading effect on the whole ecosystem, effects of which we may not immediately be aware."

The Portulaca Villosa is one of the native Hawaiian plants proposed for a federal Endangered Species list. Courtesy NTBG.

The Portulaca Villosa is one of the native Hawaiian plants proposed for a federal Endangered Species list. Courtesy NTBG.

Of the 39 plants proposed, 18 currently have 50 or fewer individual plants remaining in the wild. Walsh added that although these plant taxa are only now being proposed for listing, many dedicated people from a handful of agencies across Hawaii have been working diligently together for years to protect them from extinction.

"The Endangered Species Act is one way these taxa gain recognition regarding their status and support for protection," she said.

Requests for a public hearing must be submitted in writing to Field Supervisor, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96850 by Nov. 16.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accepts comments and information through Dec. 1 at www.regulations.gov (in the search box, enter the docket number, FWS-R1-ES-2015-0125). Written comments and information can also be submitted by U.S. snail mail or hand-delivery to:  Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2015-0125; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.

One Response to “Protecting Hawaii's endangered species”

  1. Ted:

    I have been to a lot of places on this old Earth,,none like Hawaii. Yes, its has to do with the great people, but its so special..I am 77 years old and have only missed 4 times of not coming to the islands since 1962. We must do what ever it takes to keep the flowers , birds and animals that are here. If we lose them they are gone forever. . This is true for all over, but with so many tourist now its harder. We should be teaching more in the schools, not with teachers, but with the people that watch over what we have left. If the younger was involved they would see , smell touch and discover so much.. This having a plant or bird put on the endangered list does not do it,,ask some one whats on the list ?? They can not tell you. We are coming back to Kauai end of Oct. and will be keeping an eye out to watch what we do to keep the plants , birds and animals from from leaving this paradise...Mahalo Ted & Mary


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