Posted on 15 September 2016
Many of Hawaii's ecosystems have become endangered as a direct result of human activities such as agriculture, timber extraction and construction. Introduction of feral pigs has had a devastating effect on the island ecology, destroying the tropical rainforest understory and allowing highly competitive alien species to gain a foothold. The National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) manages the Limahuli Preserve which is located in one of the most biodiverse corners of the oldest Hawaiian high island, Kauaʻi island. The forest type ranges from lowland-mesic to montane-cloud forest, thus making it the second-most biodiverse valley in the Hawaiian Islands. Home to dozens of critically endangered plant and bird species, their ecological restoration work includes habitat protection, habitat restoration, as well as both in situ and ex situ conservation of rare plants. As a means of habitat protection, ungulate exclusion fences have been installed.
National Tropical Botanical Garden has fenced out feral pigs from Upper Limahuli Preserve
One fence protects 344 acres of montane-cloud forest and the other 66 acres of lowland-mesic forest. These protected areas have been designated as sites for conservation collections of the rarest species in both of the respective ecozones. Given the habitat loss associated with feral ungulates and other system altering invasive plant species, Limahuli Preserve one of the most viable options for plant conservation because it is protected and has decades worth of work founded in science. With the fences and other infrastructure installed, and institutional support in place, NTBG are poised to create robust conservation collections of critically endangered plants that will make a substantial contribution towards conserving the genetic diversity of quickly-dwindling gene pools. Such collections will give these species the best chance of being equipped to evolve in the context of global climate change.