Hawai'i conservation alliance

Species Interactions And Ecosystem Services

How The Loss Of Native Species And The Introduction Of Exotic Species Are Changing Hawai‘i’s Forests

Lisa Crampton, Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project, Waimea, HI
Liba Pejchar, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

Tuesday, August 2, 1-3 PM, Room 311

Hawai‘i’s unique forest communities showcase a rich network of interactions among diverse species. These interactions include mutualistic relationships between plants and animals (e.g., pollination and seed dispersal) and the dynamic flow of resources between trophic levels (e.g., food webs), which enhance forests’ capacity for self-sustenance and regeneration. In Hawai‘i, these interactions are particularly captivating because Hawaiian species have evolved in relative isolation over millions of years. This isolation has produced exceptionally strong links between species because of the limited number of players and the lack of gene flow with ancestral stock. The curve of an ‘i‘iwi bill and the lobelia flowers they pollinate, the montane wekiu bug and its windblown prey, and the profusion of understory fruiting plants and the once abundant fruit-eating forest birds, are all examples of Hawai‘i’s spectacular network of species interactions. Due to human activities, however, these interactions and many of the players themselves are at risk of disruption and extinction. Habitat fragmentation, global climate change and the introduction of exotic species may all be eroding the linkages among Hawai‘i’s species, which could have serious consequences for the ecological integrity, cultural value and native beauty of Hawai‘i’s forests. In the face of anthropogenic changes, the strength of these interactions, once an asset, may actually put these species at a disadvantage, because the loss of one partner in the interaction can jeopardize the health of the other(s). Surprisingly little research has focused on ecological processes such as seed dispersal, pollination and food web dynamics in Hawaiian forest ecosystems. Even less is understood about how the loss or decline of native species and the addition of exotic species are impacting these processes. With this symposium, we propose to bring together speakers that are at the forefront of research on species interactions in Hawaiian forests. Speakers will discuss emerging research on seed dispersal, pollination, and food web dynamics and will address the implications of their work for the conservation of Hawai‘i’s forests. Specific topics include the impact of alien animals on these processes, the spatial disconnect between plants and their pollinators and dispersers, and the role of the critically endangered ‘alalā  in seed dispersal and the potential for restoring this service. The moderators will encourage active discussion of future research priorities and the role of science, policy, culture and community in maintaining and restoring the ecological connections between Hawai‘i’s plants and animals.

  • The Surprisingly Complex Roles of Alien Animals as Plant Pollinators, Seed Dispersers, and Seed Predators in Hawaiian Forests
    Donald Drake
  • Spatial Changes to Disperser and Pollinator Relationships with Hawaiian plants
    Jon Price
  • The Role of Food Web Disruption by Alien Species in the Decline of Hawaiian Forest Birds
    Paul Banko
  • The Role of the Critically Endangered 'Alalā (Corvus hawaiiensis) in Dispersing Seeds of Native Hawaiian Fruiting Plants
    Susan Culliney
  • Alone But Not Apart? The Pollination Ecology of Dioecious Plant Species in a Fragmented Forest
    Colin Phifer

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