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Invasive Species

Have you ever wondered how a fishpond remains healthy? Well the answer is simple and Native Hawaiians understood this concept well. If you cared for the land and ocean, then the land and ocean would in turn, care for you. Living in a world that was solely dependent on the health of the environment, Native Hawaiians needed to live in harmony and respect the land and ocean which gave them the resources to survive.

However, the health of a fishpond is also dependent upon the health of the surrounding ocean and land. If the `äina (land) and kai (sea) are unhealthy, then the fishpond will also be unhealthy. Today, times are changing and the health of our lands and ocean are under threat.

Construction of new homes, habitat degradation and destruction, and limited water are just a few factors that threaten the ahupua`a of Ka`ono`ulu and the life found within Kö`ie`ie Fishpond.

The introduction and establishment of invasive species also affects the quality of life within Ka`ono`ulu and neighboring ahupua`a. In the ma uka (upland) region, wattle trees have taken over much of the landscape, creating monotypic stands that crowd out native plants. This pest quickly establishes itself in disturbed areas and produces large quantities of seeds allowing it to spread quickly to new areas.

This is also true of pampas grass. Brought to Hawai`i as an ornamental grass for landscapes, South American pampas grass quickly jumped the fence. Each flower plume holds an average of 100,000 seeds that are designed to spread up to 20 miles away with the tradewinds. Seeds can land and take root anywhere, from coastal sand dunes like those near the Kö`ie`ie Fishpond to dense rainforests. Pampas chokes out native habitat and creates fire hazards. In gulches, pampas forms large thickets that prevent the natural flow of water during heavy storms.

Along the pastures and roadsides of Upcountry Kula, lies other pests. Fireweed is deceiving with its pretty yellow flowers but is poisonous to horses, cattle and other livestock. When eaten, livestock become ill and fireweed has been known to kill horses. It spreads easily by projecting its seeds in the wind and has taken over hundreds of acres of upcountry pastureland. It is a successful pest with seeds that can remain viable for more than fifty years. Ranchers spend thousands of dollars annually controlling this pest on their ranch land.

Glyceine is another pest that has spread itself throughout the upcountry area, smothering and choking out anything that gets in its way. It slowly devours our lands as a quick growing vine.

Further down the ahupua`a, marine invasive species impact Kö`ie`ie Fishpond. Here, algal blooms of Hypnea and limu pälahalaha occur time and time again affecting the quality of life for residents and visitors, the economy and the marine environment.

Residents and visitors complain of the excessive buildup of seaweed along the shore and the pungent odor left behind by decaying limu. The smell has been so bad at times that visitors have checked in and out of nearby vacation rentals on the same day. The buildup can reach excessive amounts ranging from less than one foot to over three feet deep.

These marine pests have caused a significant economic impact to Maui with up to $30 million per year lost in the form of lower property values and lost tourist revenue.

The massive amounts of limu also affect marine life. Dense floating matts prevent sunlight from reaching the coral reef and slows down its production. Fish and other marine animals then compete for food or go elsewhere, leaving Kö`ie`ie with only a select variety of marine life that can live under these conditions.

With many factors affecting the ahupua`a of Ka`ono`ulu, you can help minimize some of the impacts of invasive species.

  • Learn about pests in your area and learn how to identify them.
  • If you have a pest on your property, have it properly removed.
  • Do not plant invasive species in your yard. If you plan on purchasing a new plant, ask if it is invasive. Better yet, plant natives. They’ll save you water and are easier to grow.
  • If you go hiking, be sure to clean all your gear including your muddy shoes to avoid spreading seeds.
  • When doing marine recreational activities, be sure to clean your gear.
  • Do not release aquarium pets into nearby streams or the ocean and do not release pets into the wild.

By following these tips, you can help do your part to keep Kö`ie`ie Fishpond, Ka`ono`ulu ahupua`a and Maui safe from the impacts of invasive species. With your help, Kö`ie`ie Fishpond can become healthier and a safer place for all to enjoy. As the ancient Hawaiians believed, if you care for the land and ocean, it in turn, will care for you……

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