Hibiscadelphus woodii, is a rare flower endemic to Hawaii which was presumed to be extinct, but recently it was rediscovered through the use of a drone.
The Hibiscadelphus woodii is a flowering plant species endemic to Hawaii. Hibiscadelphus literally translates to “brother of Hibiscus,” aptly named for its similar appearance and close taxonomic relationship. The plant was last seen alive in 2009 and has since been presumed extinct due to the impacts of invasive species and rock slides. However, with the help of drone technology and the National Tropical Botanical Garden it has been once again rediscovered in the wild!
The plant was recently found on a vertical cliff face and this remarkable new development demonstrates the ingenuity of drone technology in its ability to reach and survey areas of land largely inaccessible by humans. Dr. David Lorence, director of science and conservation for the garden, said:
This incredible rediscovery was made possible by our staff using drone technology and was supported by a grant from the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund. Drone technology greatly facilitates botanical surveys in rough terrain areas.”
The rediscovery offers renewed hope for other rare plant and animal species thought to be extinct which may in fact still exist in hard or impossible to access areas. Ben Nyberg, GIS coordinator and drone specialist for NTBG, said:
Drones are unlocking a treasure trove of unexplored cliff habitat.”
There have already been similar discoveries. Back in 2017, the NTBG set out to locate the Critically Endangered Laukahi. The drone, scaling sharp mountain peaks, was able to discover 10 Laukahi plants, adding to the previous count of only 25.
Drones are proving to be vital in other areas of conservation as well. Island Conservation recently used drones to remove invasive rats from two islands within the Galapagos Archipelago. Using drones allows for greater maneuverability in hard to reach areas than a helicopter and can also be a more cost-effective approach for small and mid-sized islands around the world.
Conservationists can rejoice as this innovative technology provides a powerful emblem of hope for wildlife conservation. The use of this technology for conservation helps to inform the restoration and management approaches, bringing innumerable species back from the brink.
Featured Photo: A flowering Hibiscadelphus woodii
Credit: Ken Wood/National Tropical Botanical Garden
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