USAG-HI supports native forests

| April 9, 2018 | 0 Comments
Personnel from the Army's ONRP return native plants to their natural environment in Waianae in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy of DPW)

Personnel from the Army’s ONRP return native plants to their natural environment in Waianae in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy of DPW)

 

Karen A. Iwamoto
Staff Writer

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Personnel from the Army’s Oahu Natural Resources Program and the Directorate of Public Works-Environmental Division planted over 1,000 native flora and fauna in the Waianae mountain range and beyond, between January and the end of March.

These plants, many of them rare and endangered species, were harvested from cuttings or seeds kept at a greenhouse and seed laboratory on Schofield Barracks.

“The natural populations of a lot of these native plants are declining (in the wild) and trending toward extinction,” said Daniel Adamski, ONRP rare plant program manager. “The only way for us to keep them for the next generation are through these outplantings.”

More than 40 individuals from the Army’s ONRP and DPW participated in this year’s outplanting, which included more than 500 Cyanea superba, also known as the hāhā, a rare species of flowering plant endemic to Oahu, specifically the Waianae mountains.

“Outplanting is everybody’s favorite part,” Adamski said. “You get to see the fruit of years of effort when the plants are back in their environment.”

This is especially true for plants like the hāhā, which are considered extinct in the wild. The hāhā in the Waianae forests today are a testament to the dedication of ONRP and DPW.

“But hard work is done before the planting,” Adamski said.

ONRP field crews spend the rest of the year pulling weeds and eradicating invasive species in the forest to make room for native plants and to monitor the health of native plants already there.

“Sometimes, they’re camping in the mountains in the rain for three days at a time,” Adamski said.

Makanani Akiona, seed propagul lab technician at the seed labratory on Schofield Barracks, records information on various seeds, March 28. (Photo by Karen A. Iwamoto, Oahu Publications Inc.)

Makanani Akiona, seed propagul lab technician at the seed labratory on Schofield Barracks, records information on various seeds, March 28. (Photo by Karen A. Iwamoto, Oahu Publications Inc.)

Seeds from native plants in the forests are then collected and stored in the seed laboratory, where personnel label and meticulously record information about the seeds. They also do periodic tests to determine how long the seeds’ germination periods are. Some seeds can germinate 20 years after being stored; others only germinate within a year or two.

Once germinated, the seedlings are repotted and eventually may make their way to the greenhouse. There, greenhouse workers may care for them for several years, re-potting them and checking them for disease or blight.

Some of the plants arrive here not as seeds, but as plant cuttings.

“One of the difficulties is that not all plants produce fruit (for reproduction),” Adamski said. “Some of these plants have genders, and there may be only females in a certain area, and they won’t produce fruit without a male.”

ONRP and DPW collect males and females of such plant species and pollinate by hand.

Still others require a method called air layering, in which a portion of a plant is stripped of its bark and treated with a hormone to induce the plant to produce roots.

A plant box containing native flora and fauna is lowered by helicopter into the Waianae mountains in this undated photo. A private helicopter contracted to the Army's ONRP and DPW help get plants to remote areas unaccessible by wheeled vehicle. (Photo courtesy of DPW)

A plant box containing native flora and fauna is lowered by helicopter into the Waianae mountains in this undated photo. A private helicopter contracted to the Army’s ONRP and DPW help get plants to remote areas unaccessible by wheeled vehicle. (Photo courtesy of DPW)

Adamski said ONRP and DPW rely on experimentation to determine the best method to grow native plants.

Also, while all of the plants in the greenhouse are native, not all are endangered. A stock of non-endangered native plants is on hand to be outplanted in forests. These non-endangered native plants help build an ecosystem more supportive to endangered species.

Eventually, many of the plants in the greenhouse will be outplanted in the forest, but some are so rare or fragile that they must remain in the greenhouse under the care of workers.

By outplanting native flora and fauna and maintaining a cache of seeds and plants, ONRP and DPW help ensure the Army can fulfill its mission while protecting Hawaii’s native forests for the next generation.

ONRP

The Army’s Oahu Natural Resources Program offers conservation-based volunteer service trips in several forests on Army land. For more information and to sign up, visit https://oanrp.com.

(Note: ONRP is contracted to the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii through the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii under the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research.)

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