It’s not food for human use – it’s a forest managed to provide habitat and food for recovering endangered bird species.
The Keauhou Bird Conservation Center (KBCC) Discovery Forest is a project and part of Hawaiʻi Forest Institute’s (HFI) Mahalo ʻĀina: Give Back to the Forest Program.
HFI’s Mahalo ʻĀina: Give Back to the Forest program seeks to expand public and private partnerships to gain support for the protection and perpetuation of Hawaii’s forest resources.
The objectives of the KBCC Discovery Forest are to:
• Restore an endemic forest canopy with koa;
• Restore an endemic forest understory with fruiting trees and shrubs;
• Improve habitat quality for endemic wild birds;
• Provide hands-on experiential education for local students; and
• Provide forest materials (fruits, browse, and perching) for captive birds KBCC.
Using captive propagation and release techniques, KBCC is reestablishing self-sustaining populations of critically endangered Hawaiian birds in the wild.
The Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program breeds endangered Hawaiian birds in captivity, for release back into the wild.
For Phase I, HFI began work with KBCC and other community partners to create the Discovery Forest with 1,200 koa and other native trees. This project is providing service learning opportunities for youth volunteers and helping to develop habitat and food for native birds.
Koa trees are an essential part of native Hawaiian forests. They improve soil quality through a chemical process called nitrogen fixation, allowing other native plants, like the fruiting trees necessary for native bird life, to grow in the nutrient-poor, lava-based soil.
In addition, koa are the dominant crown cover in some areas, providing watershed protection and playing a large part in Hawaiian culture.
Koa is important from a conservation perspective because it provides habitat for native plants and animals. Although birds do not eat koa fruit, they forage on insects on and within the tree itself, and use cavities in koa for nesting.
Once a koa forest is established, understory fruiting species that are key to the diets of rare bird species can be planted in the area. Fruiting species include hōawa, kōlea, maile, māmaki, māmane, ‘ōhelo, ‘ōlapa, pilo and ‘ie’ie. (San Diego Zoo)
Notable long-term program efforts and successes include:
• Nēnē – (the State Bird) recovering from fewer than 50 birds to nearly 2,000
• ʻAlala – captive flock that has grown to 95
• Puaiohi – recovering from only a few dozen to approximately 500 (found only on Kaua‘i)
• Palila – a new population has been established on the north slope of Mauna Kea
The trees planted school groups are the beginning of a new native tree forest that will support the native bird species in the future.
This site, at an elevation of about 4,000-feet, was once grazed by cattle and was primarily covered in non-native kikuyu grass; forest restoration helps add to the existing collection of native species.
The land is owned by Kamehameha Schools and leased to KBCC, which is part of the Hawaiʻi Endangered Bird Conservation Program, a partnership between the San Diego Zoo Global Institute for Conservation Research, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
The project to re-establish the koa forest has been funded through the support of the Hawai‘i Community Foundation and the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority. The koa seedlings were donated by the Three Mountain Alliance.
HFI was awarded a DLNR Division of Forestry & Wildlife (DOFAW) Forest Stewardship Program grant to develop a forest stewardship plan for the approximately 200-acre Discovery Forest site. (HFI)
Click the following link for more on Mahalo ʻĀina: Give Back to the Forest Program.
I am honored and proud to serve as a director on the Hawaiʻi Forest Institute, an organization dedicated to promote the health and productivity of Hawaiʻi’s forests, through forest restoration, educational programs, information dissemination and support for scientific research.
Among other projects The Mahalo ‘Āina: Give Back to the Forest will benefit Kaʻūpūlehu Dryland Forest, LaʻiʻŌpua Dryland Habitat Preserve, Kaloko Makai Dryland Forest Preserve, Panaʻewa Zoo Discovery Forest, ʻĀina Mauna Christmas Tree Demonstration Project and Honolulu Zoo Children’s Discovery Forest. (Lots of information and images here is from HFI.)