Better Biosecurity: A Cornerstone of Hawai’i’s Ecological Health

Organizations in Hawai’i combine forces to safeguard native species by developing better biosecurity.

Hawaii is home to a diverse array of plant and animal species, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth.

Residents of Hawai‘i know that its environment and way of life are special. Many of the native plants and animals exist nowhere else in the world, and the ability to grow food locally and be connected to the land is critical to maintaining an island identity.

island conservation apapane endemic honeycreeper

The Apapane is endemic to Hawaii, meaning it is found nowhere else on Earth. Credit: Minette Layne/Flickr

Hawai’i is also extremely vulnerable to invasive species, being a popular tourist destination. Over the years, organisms that cross onto the islands with travelers have inserted themselves into the native ecosystem. Some of these species have highly destructive effects on the native plants, wildlife, and island culture. Coqui frogs disturb the night with their shrill vocalizations, fire ants attack people and wildlife, and disease-carrying mosquitoes pose a threat to human and bird health. In response to the multi-faceted crisis caused by invasive species, Governor David Ige says:

Protecting Hawai‘i from the impacts of invasive species will require agencies and industries to work together to build a better biosecurity system.

Biosecurity refers to defense against and mitigation of introduction of invasive species. Biosecurity requires strong policies and tangible actions. Until now, the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) has been responsible for biosecurity. Now, as the ecosystem begins to deform and crack under the pressures of invasive species, Hawai’i is making their defense system more robust.

The threat of potential invasive species goes beyond HDOA’s mandate and this new interagency biosecurity plan will help the State focus on important priorities that will protect the environment and agriculture in Hawai’i now and in the future.

island conservation science hawaii endemic plant

Pōpolo kū mai, or Thorny pōpolo, is endemic to the Hawaiian islands. This striking plant is Critically Endangered due to invasive herbivores. David Elckhoff/Flickr

Hawai’i developed its first interagency approach to biosecurity which is strengthened by partnerships across state, federal, and county organizations including conservationists, farmers, researchers, private citizens, and state representatives.

In Hawai‘i the concept of laulima is followed: many hands working together.

Improved biosecurity measures will help to protect ecosystems by mitigating the spread of invasive species. Combined with eradication of invasive species already present within ecosystems, our planet has a better chance at maintaining its biodiversity.

Featured photo: ‘Alae ‘ula aka Hawaiian Moorhen. Credit: Jerry McFarland/Flickr
Read the original article at DLNR Hawaii

About Sara Kaiser

Sara received a BA in anthropology from UC Santa Cruz in 2014. As a freelance writer and editor, she seeks to produce and highlight stories that support ecological responsibility, body awareness, emotional intelligence, and creative action, and reveal the connections between them.

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