A Commitment to Conservation in the Hawaiian Islands: 2021 Project Winners of the Competitive State Wildlife Grants
Conservation is often slow, painstaking work. It can take collaboration among many partners, all working towards the same goal.
For many years, the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources has been more than up to the task.
The Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is working hard to save the many endangered and at-risk species included in Hawaiʻi’s State Wildlife Action Plan. Hawaiʻi recently received more than $1,000,000 through three Competitive State Wildlife Grants (CSWG) from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do just this. Hawaiʻi DLNR’s hard work and excellent nationwide reputation have contributed to their garnering 30 of the highly competitive CSWG awards over the last 10 years, making it one of the leading award recipients in the nation. Hawaiʻi’s newest CSWG grants will help conserve more than 20 rare native species, 10 of which are listed as endangered. These include tree snails, yellow-faced bees, and an O’ahu forest bird. Additional Service funding and technical assistance to help these species over the years has come from Endangered Species Act Section 6 Recovery grants, the Pacific Islands Coastal Program, and others.
Multi-Institution Hawaiian Land Snail Captive Propagation Network
Colorful native tree snails, Hawaiʻi’s “jewels of the forest,” used to be widespread and are an important part of local culture and lore. But the introduction of rats, carnivorous snails, and over-collection have resulted in drastic declines of Hawaiʻi’s native snails. More than 40 of these are now listed as endangered species. Current threats also include climate change and continued degradation of habitat by non-native, invasive weeds. Low reproductive rates and limited dispersal abilities increase the snails’ vulnerability.
In October, the Fish and Wildlife Service awarded a Competitive State Wildlife Grant to Hawaiʻi’s Snail Extinction Prevention Program to create a multi-institution captive propagation network with the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DNLR), Bishop Museum, and the Honolulu Zoo. This will enable individual snails from more than 60 vulnerable populations, some no longer found in the wild, to be spread between the three institutions, thus reducing the risk of extinction. The increased capacity for captive propagation will also generate thousands of individuals for reintroducing back to the wild into protected habitats.
DLNR snail expert and project leader David Sischo said, “We are in a race to save Hawaiʻi’s unique land snails from extinction as they are some of the most imperiled animals in the world. This grant funds a much-needed cooperative breeding program between multiple institutions, building upon prior efforts and years of research to greatly expand the capacity to recover these storied animals. As a bonus, for the first time ever, the public will get to see these species up close and personal at the Honolulu Zoo and the Bishop Museum.”
Stabilizing Yellow-Faced Bee Populations Through Nesting Substrate Augmentation and Foraging Habitat Enhancement
Hawaiian yellow-faced bees are critical pollinators of native plants in Hawaiʻi. Like much of the native plants and animals, yellow-faced bees, once so abundant across Hawaiʻi, have experienced extensive range reductions, population declines and extinctions over the last 100 years. The importance of saving these insects is crucial as less than 5% of coastal insects in Hawaiʻi are native. The majority of the 63 known species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees have experienced significant declines in range and population and many have not been seen in recent years. Though once abundant in coastal areas, one Hawaiian yellow-faced bee species (Hylaeus anthracinus) persists in only a few areas on O’ahu. In 2016, seven bee species received federal protection under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, including Hylaeus anthracinus.
With the help of a 2021 Competitive State Wildlife Grant, the Hawaiʻi Department of Lands and Natural Resources (DLNR) will join forces with the University of Hawaiʻi and the Service to implement conservation actions for rare, yellow-faced bees on O’ahu. Stabilization and recovery of some of the last populations of the bees on O’ahu is achievable with the installation of fencing around key habitat, planting of diverse native plant species correlated with bee nesting success, and installation of artificial nest habitat, which provides protection against predators.
According to DLNR entomologist and project leader Cynthia King, “This grant will allow Hawaiʻi to direct personnel and resources to implement simple yet effective on-the-ground conservation actions for endangered yellow-faced bees that would not otherwise be supported with our limited state budget.”
O‘ahu ‘Elepaio Status, Demography and Predator Control in Unmanaged Populations
The O‘ahu ‘elepaio is a non-migratory flycatcher endemic to the island of O‘ahu where it is found in a variety of forest types. Despite this tiny bird’s adaptability, O‘ahu ‘elepaio populations have severely declined in the last few decades, and they have disappeared from much of their former range. In May 2002, the O‘ahu ‘elepaio was listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as federally endangered. A significant contributor to this decline is predation on eggs and young by non-native, invasive rats.
Rat control is a high priority action in both Hawaiʻi’s State Wildlife Action Plan and the Service’s Revised Recovery Plan for Hawaiian Forest Birds. Since 1996, the O‘ahu ‘elepaio population in Wailupe Valley has been managed through rat control and those efforts have resulted in a stable to increasing population. With this 2021 Competitive State Wildlife Grant, the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resource’s Division of Forestry will reduce rodent populations by deploying traps, monitor O‘ahu ‘elepaio populations in previously unmanaged areas, and assess the O‘ahu ‘elepaio population on an island-wide scale.
DLNR Wildlife Biologist Aaron Works said, “Receiving this grant award will enable us to increase Oʻahu ʻelepaio management in its northernmost territory in the Koʻolau mountain range and to provide a population estimate for Oʻahu ʻelepaio remaining in the Koʻolau mountain range. The objectives aim to increase productivity of Oʻahu ʻelepaio, to inform managers of the current population status, and compare results to a study from a decade ago.”
For more information: https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp/species/6325