CEMML is helping to sustain populations of rare species that are not federally-protected but are considered Species at Risk (SAR) by the Department of Defense (DoD) . Managing SAR is a DoD priority because it can reduce the chances that additional species are listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as Threatened or Endangered. A SAR listing can result in restrictions on military training, expensive species recovery efforts, and other compliance commitments. Therefore, part of the DoD strategy is to avoid future listings by identifying and managing SAR, a far less expensive in the long run and reduces the risk of future restrictions on military training lands. These two stories highlight some of CEMML’s natural resources efforts at the Army’s Pōhakuloa Training Area on the Island of Hawaii.

The Army is Managing Species at Risk on the Big Island, Hawai’i

CEMML staff at Pohakuloa Training Area
CEMML staff at Pohakuloa Training Area surveyed approximately 120 km2 over a 5-year period, recording over 13,000 locations of federally-listed threatened and endangered plant species and 227 locations of plants considered species at risk. (Photo by CEMML staff)

Island ecosystems harbor many rare and endemic species that are vulnerable to invasion and new disturbances. CEMML natural resources specialists at U.S. Army Garrison, Pōhakuloa Training Area (PTA), one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, are persistently working to prevent additional species listings under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Currently, PTA manages 20 ESA-listed plants and six ESA-listed animals, but also focus on numerous species at-risk (SAR) to prevent future ESA listings. Under a cooperative agreement with CEMML/CSU, the Army uses ecosystem-scale and species-specific approaches to manage ESA compliance and threats to SAR. In 2019, CEMML conducted the first systematic analysis to identify all SAR at PTA. The analysis identified 26 plant SAR and 24 animal SAR known on PTA, which is nearly four times the previous estimate. Results will support efforts to monitor, manage and prioritize these rare species, avoid future listings, and minimize training constraints.

The story is on page 12 of the Fall 2020 Issue of the DoD Natural Resources Program Natural Selections newsletter – issue theme is Resilient Installations. The web link to that issue is https://www.denix.osd.mil/nr/resources/newsletter/2020/fall-2020/Natural%20Selections_Fall%202020_v8_final_508.pdf

Species at Risk: a Story of the Native Hō’awa

Also at Pōhakuloa Training Area, one of the rare species the Army is working to protect is the hō’awa tree (Pittosporum terminalioides). This species occurs in dry, mesic, and subalpine woodlands between 980 and 6,600 feet in elevation, in the southern end of the Hawaiian island chain. While it can still be found on Lāna’i and Maui, numbers on Hawai’i appear to be extremely low. CEMML botanical specialists, supporting the Army’s Natural Resources Program at PTA, are working hard to determine how many remain and to protect their numbers from declining. Hō’awa was one of the main food sources for the ‘alalā or Hawaiian crow (Corvus tropicus). The two species evolved together, complementing their ecological niches. However, ‘alalā are now considered extinct in the wild and populations of hō’awa in the bird’s former range have become very scarce likely due, in part, to the decline of its primary seed disperser, the ‘alalā. This article describes the importance of identifying and managing species at risk (i.e., species that are very rare but do not have Endangered Species Act protections), monitoring and management efforts for hō’awa, and added value associated with Hawaiian culture, native species conservation in general and wise investments by the Army.

The story is on page 4 of the 2020 Issue of the Ecosystem Management Program Bulletin published for the U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii.  The web link to that issue is  https://oanrp.files.wordpress.com/2021/02/ecosystem-management-program-bulletin-2020-issue-spread-1.pdf