On Sunday, June 4, 2017, Blue Aina participants gathered miles from the sea for a land-based volunteer experience. Our desire to preserve Hawaiian ecosystems goes beyond the boundaries of the water. Our native forests are being invaded by non-native weeds and were setting out to lend hands to help control the invasive Himalayan ginger. We met at Maui Nature Conservancy office, located in Makawao. First, we cleaned our shoes, an attempt to prevent the spread of "Rapid Ohi'a Death", a fungal disease decimating native plants on Hawai'i island. Then we transferred into 4WD trucks, which could handle the rough mud road to the edge of the beautiful Waikamoi Preserve.
The journey continued as we hiked up the slopes of Haleakala Ranch land. In Waikamoi Nature Preserve native biodiversity abounds, from several mosses carpeting the forest floor, to nurse logs and massive Koa trees. The fence that signified the start of Waikamoi Preserve also clearly marks a change in the forest. On one side Himalayan ginger and tropical ash have conquered the area. We reached our destination and spent the next few hours weeding ginger that has crept into the preserve. The root systems are bulky and fragrant and the work was dirty yet gratifying.
Kerri, our leader, casually demonstrated knowledge from 13 years of working with the Nature Conservancy. She pointed out details we most certainly would have missed like native kleptoparasitic spiders. During lunch the endemic and gorgeous, scarlet-hued 'I'iwi bird visited us, using it's curved beak to lunch as well. We left the preserve with the boundary a little better maintained, and a shared sense of gratitude for this spectacular place.
From mauka to makai the Nature Conservancy works with local communities, businesses and people like you to protect Hawaii's best natural lands and waters. "Since 1980, we have established a statewide system of Conservancy preserves, helped create new wildlife refuges and expand national parks, forged partnerships to protect our most important watershed forests and coral reefs, and led efforts to stem the tide of invasive species entering the state. All total, we have helped protect more than 200,000 acres in the Islands."
Waikamoi Preserve provides an important sanctuary for hundreds of native Hawaiian plants and animals. It’s high elevation rain forest and alpine shrubland are home to 12 different native bird species, seven of them are endangered. The preserve shelters a large variety of native ferns, herbs, shrubs and trees that reflect the biodiversity of Maui. Many are rare plants unique to East Maui, including members of the Lobelia and Geranium families. The Nature Conservancy protects the native species living in the reserve by managing the invasive weeds and animals.
Updates regarding our next volunteer opportunity coming soon. Stay tuned!
Blog post and photos by Trilogy Crew Member Jenny Erickson