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HFI recently joined a partnership to restore a 5-acre site in Akupu on O’ahu. HFI entered into a Restoration License Agreement with landowner Gill Eva Lands (GEL) to bring volunteers to the 5-acre site they are restoring. Project partner Mālama Learning Center (MLC) is currently coordinating eco-tours to the site.

The project is helping to support restoration efforts in the southern Waiʻanae Mountains, which are part of a watershed that is facing serious threats.  The cyclical effects of wildfires and historic reforestation by invasive species, particularly grasses, fuel more wildfires and accelerate erosion.  Strawberry guava (Psidium Cattlenium) also known as Waiawi, is an invasive species also threatening the site.  Slowing this trend requires finding ways to remove invasive species and reintroduce native plants on terrain that extends from sea level to mountainous ridges.

At approximately 2,500’, the 5-acre site encompasses mesic forest that has remnant examples of native species (such as ʻōhiʻa and Acacia koa) as well as different types of weeds. The site is in an area known as Akupu. GEL has improved access to the site by building a trail accessible by ATV, which is important for wildfire suppression as well as community involvement. Through funding from the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, the MLC contracted the Waiʻanae Mountains Watershed Partnership to construct fencing enclosing most of the 5-acre site. The fencing helps to protect outplanted native species from the area’s feral pigs.

An initial planting of more than 250 individuals of six native mesic forest species for the restoration site has been completed. These species include: koa (Acacia koa), lonomea (Sapindus oahuensis), ʻōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha), lama (Diospyros sandwicensis), ʻaʻaliʻi (Dodonaea viscosa), palapalai (Microlepia strigosa), kupukupu (Nephrolepis cordifolia), maile (Alyxia stellata). Naturally occurring pūkiawe (Leptecophylla tameiameiae) and ‘iliahi alo‘e (Santalum ellipticum) have been observed in a number of places, as well as natural germination of some koa seedlings.

Given this strong base, we are now ready to begin Phase II of the Akupu Project. This phase has both conservation and education components. Goals are:

  • Community-Based Stewardship: Establish a cadre of committed, regular volunteers from both the immediate surroundings and farther afield who feel a sense of ownership for the project.
  • Education & Awareness: Educate volunteers and site visitors on the natural and cultural history of the ahupua`a and greater area, as well as the environmental issues we now face, using the site as a living laboratory and historical reference point.
  • Support Restoration Efforts: Mobilize the community to assist with maintaining the site (outplanting, weeding, watering, etc.) and restoring the remaining five acres of the 10-acre site. Restoration activities will be integrated with educational activities.

Akupu Ridge Workday 08-12-2023
A total of 38 community volunteers participated in a successful workday clearing strawberry guava (Psidium Cattlenium), a highly invasive species that has caused partial or complete loss of approximately 495,000 forested acres in Hawai’i.  See more photos here.  The next volunteer workday will be scheduled for October.

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