FY09 Funded Projects

The HISC disbursed $4M in FY09 to support projects related to invasive species prevention, control, outreach, and research. A full description of FY09 activities can be found in the 2010 legislative report. Individual project summaries and final reports are below.

Prevention

West Nile Virus Prevention

Hawaii Department of Health, $307,300

To develop the capacity of the Department to prevent the establishment of West Nile Virus by providing supplies and support for the State Laboratory, Vector Control Branch and Environmental Education to promote awareness and public participation.

Final Report

Hawaii-Pacific Weed Risk Assessment

Hawaii-Pacific Weed Risk Assessment, $97,700

To sustain two technicians to continue the screening of plants grown and used commercially in Hawaii via the locally developed Weed Risk Assessment (WRA). So far, the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals, the Landscape Industry Council of Hawaii, Kauai Landscape Industry Council, the Oahu Nursery Growers Association and a number of individual companies have agreed to adopt the voluntary Codes of Contact that include screening plants using the WRA and promoting non-invasive alternatives. The HISC passed a resolution that state agencies conducting planting operations should request HPWRA scores, when available, as one of the tools to assist decision makers in determining whether to plant a particular species. For species that have scored as potentially invasive in Hawaii, this information should underscore the need for containment plans or remediation efforts if they become necessary. HPWRA and outreach staff should work with state and county agencies to identify the agencies with planting guidelines, seek to gain their support of this recommendation and inform them of the weed risk assessment services we provide.

Final Report

Hull Fouling and Ballast Water Coordination

DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources, $84,200

To support prevention projects to minimize the introduction of alien aquatic organisms in Hawaii from hull fouling and ballast water. This would include funds for regulation changes, compliance measures, early detection efforts, specialized equipment and marine invertebrate taxonomic expertise.

Final Report

Prevention of Pests to Honeybees

Hawaii Department of Agriculture, $54,200

To support an apiarist to be based in the Department of Agriculture. He or she will help in efforts to facilitate effective management and regulation of honeybees and their pests, especially the varroa mite, a pest that has had a major impact on honeybee colonies on Oahu. Members of the lucrative queen and bee-rearing industry on the Big Island are particularly concerned about the recent arrival of this pest in Hilo and its potential to devastate their industry.

Hawaii Ant Coordinator

Hawaii Department of Agriculture, $30,000

For a Hawaii Ant Projects Coordinator to work for the Department of Agriculture to bring about more effective protection of Hawaii’s environment from harmful alien ants, with special emphasis on prevention and control of the little fire ant (present on the Big Island) and the red imported fire ant (still absent from Hawaii). In early 2007 the “Hawaii Invasive Ant/Red Imported Fire Ant Prevention Plan” was updated. To this end, the interagency Hawaii Ant Group was resurrected to get input and agreement on potential plan revisions some funds from FY2008 will also be used to hire someone for a year. The plan identifies further actions needed to address this threat.

Between FY09 and FY10 funds were awarded to support the development of The Hawaii Ant Plan and to work with invasive ants generally (supervised by HDOA staff).  The Ant Coordinator was hired, and has been improving the ant response plan, coordinating prevention, early detection, and researching new technologies to address Little Fire Ant and other invasive ant threats. This plan is cross-cutting and applies to management of little fire ant, an invasive species already present in Hawaii, and prevention and rapid response plans related to the as yet absent red imported fire ant. 

Control

Aquatic Invasive Species Response Team

DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources, $411,400

This statewide program addresses marine and freshwater invasive species, through local control, early detection and rapid response efforts. Control of algae on reefs using the Supersucker, algae suppression strategies, habitat restoration of wetlands, outreach and control of incipient invasive invertebrates are key focus areas.

Final Report

County-based Invasive Species Committees

ISCs, $1,616,300

Interagency invasive species committees guide on-island field crews in each of the counties implementing early detection, rapid response, eradication or containment programs for incipient invasive species, working on public and private lands. The four invasive species committees target more than 30 species of plants and animals in areas covering tens of thousands of acres; some of their more high profile targets include Miconia, coqui frogs, pampas grass and ants.

KISC Final Report

OISC Final Report

MoMISC Final Report

MISC Final Report

BIISC Final Report

Environmental Assessment (EA) Coordinator for Biocontrol Projects

Hawaii Department of Agriculture, $65,000

To support an Environmental Assessment (EA) Coordinator for biocontrol projects will support the EA process for biocontrol programs implemented by the USDA and HDOA using up-to-date scientific methods. The coordinator will identify stakeholders, conduct outreach, collect input, write draft assessments, and address regulatory issues as appropriate.

Outreach

Statewide Outreach Program

Hawaii Invasive Species Council, $312,200

To support a Statewide Outreach Program in cooperation with the public and private sector for visitors and residents to increase voluntary compliance of quarantine laws, avoid accidental introductions of invasive species, and establish an effective pest hotline reporting system that delivers timely information to managers on the ground. Funds fully cover specialist outreach staff on Kauai, the Big Island, and a statewide role base on Oahu. In addition, half the salary is included for Oahu and Maui outreach positions. Increased emphasis on statewide messages identified in the recently updated HISC strategic plan are expected to provide better uptake in the community. Specific collaborative efforts with appropriate agencies, groups and organizations are expected to increase the impact of the outreach team. Effectiveness of the outreach effort is measured through a third party survey.

FY09 Outreach Report

Research

Biocontrol Workshop

USDA / HDOA, $10,000

An international workshop seeks to develop collaborative projects with other countries in the South Pacific to do research on biocontrol agents for shared pests, with the desired end point of obtaining biocontrol agents for priority pests at reduced cost. Funds will allow USDA and HDOA staff to participate.

Hawaii Biological Survey

Bishop Museum, $160,000

Bishop Museum’s Hawaii Biological Survey program will provide up to the minute information about the status of alien and invasive plant and animal species present in Hawaii, as well as identification services for introduced species. There are already 5,314 alien species documented as established in the wild, many thousands more are known to occur. This supports one of the HISC’s legal mandates “For those species that do arrive in Hawaii, identify and record all introduced and invasive species present in the State.” Extra attention will be given to incipient species, and the information is expected to support management efforts and regulatory and policy issues that require agencies to know which species are present in Hawaii.

Project Details

Request for Proposals: In FY09 $330,000 was designated for Research & Technology Grants. Projects addressing invasive species were solicited via a public notice of Request for Proposals. The HISC research and technology evaluation committee completed a review of the 29 research and technology proposals submitted in response to the Requests for Proposals. A total of 14 reviewers evaluated some or all of the proposals, including staff from DOA, DEBDT, DOH, DLNR, HISC, USDA, UH, Bishop Museum, USGS etc. A core group met at Lyon Arboretum on January 30, 2009 to review the top ranked projects.  Ten projects were selected and funds requested came to a total of $329,737, slightly below the $330,000 allotted for Research and Technology projects in the FY09 HISC budget.

The following ten Research and Technology projects were matched with $366,949 in non-state dollars. For full bibliographic references for any citations in research grant abstracts, contact the DLNR Invasive Species Coordinator.

Control of arboreal Little Fire Ants in Hawaiian agricultural systems

Reimer, Oishi, Vanderwoude / HDOA Plant Pest Control Branch, $50,000

Ants are not an endemic component of Hawaiian ecosystems and cause significant ecological, economic and social impacts (Krushelnycky et al. 2005). Wasmannia auropunctata (the Little Fire Ant, or LFA) is an invasive ant species native to South America. Over the last century it has spread to the mainland US (Osburn 1948; Spencer 1941), Africa (Wetterer et al. 1999), Australia and the Pacific (Wetterer and Porter 2003). In the last two decades, LFA appears to be spreading more rapidly than before facilitated by increased trade within the Pacific region. Since the 1990s, new infestations have been discovered in Vanuatu (Vanderwoude 2007), Cairns, Tuvalu, Hawai’i (Wetterer and Porter 2003; Krushelnycky et al. 2005) and more recently, Papua New Guinea (Vanderwoude 2008).

First reported in 1999 on the east side of Hawaii and Kauai (Conant and Hirayama 2000), LFA is regarded as one the “worlds 100 worst invasives” (Lowe et al. 2000). Little Fire Ants over-run forest and urban ecosystems developing huge interconnected super-colonies that occupy both the ground and arboreal strata (Le Breton et al. 2004). The species negatively impacts wildlife populations (Jourdan 1997; Le Breton et al. 2003; Walker 2006), domestic animals, and public health. There is considerable anecdotal evidence that LFA sting domestic and wild animals especially on the eyes, causing blindness (Theron 2005). They are a serious agricultural pest, enhancing homoptera populations, stinging agricultural workers (Wetterer and Porter 2003) and interfering with beneficial insects introduced for biological control (Fabres and Brown 1978). Workers have refused to harvest or tend orchards infested with this species in Hawaii.

Although eradication efforts have been underway for the small population of LFA on Kauai, LFA has spread rapidly on east Hawaii (Hawaii Ant Group 2007). Control of nests on the ground has been achieved through the use of granular baits developed for another invasive species, Solenopsis invicta (Red Imported Fire Ant or RIFA). While there is scope for improvement in ground-level control, there is currently no known method to control LFA in arboreal situations, their preferred habitat. Developing a practical method for control of Little Fire Ants in arboreal situations is therefore before a response to this invasive species can be considered.

As LFA spreads in Hawaii, agricultural and landscaping industries will be affected to varying degrees. The potential impact on perennial tree cropping industries such as macadamia, coffee, and bananas could be catastrophic. Recently, LFA have been discovered in Hawaiian Peach Palm (Bactris gassipaes) plantations which form the basis of the fledgling heart of palm industry (personal communication). A real, but difficult to quantify potential impact is the effects of LFA on the quality of life of residents and the “Hawaii experience” for visitors as outdoor recreational activities will be negatively impacted by LFA. It must also be stated that LFA is currently impacting pets—cats and dogs have been blinded in the Hilo area by LFA stings.

An opportunity exists to test arboreal control methods for this invasive species. The development of effective arboreal control for LFA will be critical as the potential impacts to agriculture ranging from backyards to downtown areas, mitigating risk to all Hawaii residents in urban and natural environments in Hawaii.

Development of Herbicide Ballistic Technology as an effective incipient weed mitigation tool

Leary / University of Hawaii, $23,805

Problem Statement:

Invasive weeds are a major detriment to the natural areas of Hawaii. An important component of all invasive weed management strategies is to efficiently and effectively mitigate the spread of incipient satellite populations from becoming major infestations. Many of these natural areas consist of extremely steep, densely vegetated, or otherwise inaccessible terrain, thereby requiring a significant amount of time and energy that may even expose field personnel to hazardous conditions while applying herbicide with conventional application equipment. New technologies are being developed at the University of Hawaii that can accurately deliver effective herbicide doses from safer long-range distances. The recreational paintball industry has contributed to the technological advancements of liquid encapsulation and pneumatic ballistics. These technologies have been adopted for developing a new tool in invasive weed management called Herbicide Ballistic Technology (HBT). The basic concept is to encapsulate aliquots of herbicide into 0.68 caliber starch gel projectiles that can be delivered to specific weed targets with a pneumatic applicator. There are three key accomplishments that have contributed to the development and progress of HBT. The first accomplishment was the development of a procedure for encapsulating an herbicide formulation into 0.68 caliber projectiles. The biggest challenge with this procedure was ensuring compatibility of the fill with the polysaccharide shell. The second accomplishment was a field demonstration of HBT effectively administered to weed targets with long-range accuracy (> 20 m) from both ground and aerial applications. The first prototype batch of HBT capsules consisted of the herbicide active ingredient imazapyr and was highly effective in trials to control Australian Tree Fern (Sphaeropteris cooperi) and banana poka (Passiflora mollissima). The third accomplishment was US Environmental Protection Agency interpretation of HBT as a legal application. According to § 167.3 of CFR title 40, the process of HBT encapsulation is technically a custom blend of EPA-registered pesticide, adjuvant and inert products. In fact, all of the components used in paintball manufacturing are pharmaceutical-grade and safe for consumption. Furthermore, an HBT application is compliant with FIFRA sec. 2(ee) in that it is consistent with (1) applying a pesticide at any dosage, concentration, or frequency less than that specified on the labeling unless the labeling specifically prohibits deviation from the specified dosage, concentration, or frequency and (2) employing any method of application not prohibited by the labeling unless the labeling specifically states that the product may be applied only by the methods specified on the labeling.

Conservation and land management organizations in Hawaii dedicate a significant amount of resources to field operations in weed control. HBT is a new technology for assisting field crews with safer pesticide handling, improved application technique and an enhanced management strategy. Encapsulated HBT capsules are by design ready-to-use and will eliminate the need for handling and mixing liquid pesticides in the field. Furthermore, there is also a reduction in water requirements needed in field operations. Improvements in herbicide application result from the ability to treat weed targets with long-range accuracy. Conventional directed applications require a significant amount of travel to and from each target species, while HBT applications will allow for the application of multiple targets within a 20 m radius from a single reference point, which increases efficiency and reduces the disturbance to a site. We have demonstrated the ability to target incipient weed populations residing on steep cliffs and deep ravines expanding the range of weed targets that would otherwise be untreatable and without putting the applicator at risk. We have also successfully demonstrated the use of HBT as a compliment to helicopter spray ball operations, which can contribute to flight safety and lower operating costs. Pilot fatigue can be reduced by diverting application responsibilities to a dedicated HBT applicator, while flight time and fuel costs may be reduced as a result to increasing target efficiency. Consider your cost for helicopter flight time? Currently, the going rates for helicopter flight time are $12-$15 per minute. If HBT applications can increase target efficiency by 10-20 plants per hour, this could translate into savings of $1000’s in weed management costs.

While several accomplishments in the development of HBT have been achieved there are still objectives to be met before deploying this technology on an operational scale and we are currently working with several partners to achieve our goals. Collaborations have so far been established with Nelson Technologies Inc., The Wilbur Ellis Company, The Nature Conservancy Kauai Program, Interisland Helicopters, The Oahu Army Natural Resources Program, the Department of Forestry and Wildlife, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and the Oahu Invasive Species Committee. Nelson Technologies provides the custom blend encapsulation services. The Wilbur Ellis Company is developing new adjuvant formulations specifically designed for HBT. The Nature Conservancy Kauai Program is collaborating to develop HBT as an aerial application for controlling Australian Tree Fern in Wainiha Valley. Several other field trials have been initiated with DoFaW, DHHL, OANRP and OISC. All HBT trials thus far, have been conducted with the imazapyr active ingredient. However, an overwhelming majority of herbicide applications are with the active ingredients triclopyr and glyphosate. It will be highly prudent to initiate field testing of HBT capsules with these active ingredients for efficacy on our top-priority weed targets.

Assessing the risk of Jackson's chameleon to native animal communities in Hawaii

Bishop Museum, $12,100

Results published in:

Kraus, F. & Preston, D. (2012) Diet of the Invasive Lizard Chameleo jacksonii (Squamata: Chamaeleonidae) at a Wet-Forest Site in Hawaii. Pacific Science, vol. 66 (3):397-404.

Problem Statement:

Management of alien species does not occur unless evidence of invasiveness, or harm, is first known to exist.  Such an approach is obviously sensible but has the undesirable effect of often restricting attention to taxa with already-known harmful effects, thereby hindering attempts to understand impacts from a wider diversity of taxa.  One result is that animals causing impacts not immediately obvious to humans are commonly assumed to have no impact.  This has been the fate of the vast majority of reptile and amphibian introductions.  Of the >1000 established occurrences of 322 alien species of reptiles and amphibians around the globe, only approximately two dozen have been assessed for ecological or economic impact.  These studies began only in the 1980’s and have extended to species beyond the brown treesnake (Boiga irregularis) and cane toad (Bufo marinus) only in the last decade or so.  Even so, early claims for impacts from these taxa were often met with scorn (e.g., Marshall, J.T. 1985. Guam: a problem in avian conservation. Wilson Bulletin 97: 259–262; Jaffe, M. 1994. And no birds sing: the story of an ecological disaster in a tropical paradise. Simon & Schuster, New York.), a fate also shared by the coqui invasion in Hawaii (Kraus, F., and E. Campbell. 2002. Human-mediated escalation of a formerly eradicable problem: the invasion of Caribbean frogs in the Hawaiian Islands. Biological Invasions 4: 327-332.).  The range of impacts from alien herpetofauna are now known to be extensive, yet the sparse distribution of such studies means that management of alien herpetofauna largely remain ignored (Kraus, F. 2009. Alien reptiles and amphibians: a scientific compendium and analysis. Springer Science and Business Media B.V., Dordrecht, Netherlands, 564 pp.).  This is potentially an important problem because many species of alien herpetofauna form high standing biomass, making unexamined food-web effects likely.

Ecological impact from alien species can be difficult to measure but will typically be a function of population density; breadth of geographic range; and the morphological, behavioral, physiological, or ecological novelty that the alien species brings to its new range.  Among the 31 alien species of reptiles and amphibians established in Hawaii, three relatively recent introductions stand out as likely candidates for having important impacts on native Hawaiian fauna.  These are the coqui (Eleutherodactylus coqui), brown anole (Anolis sagrei), and Jackson’s chameleon (Chamaeleo jacksonii).  Each has high standing biomass, inserts a novel trophic guild into native food webs, and has rapidly colonized many of the Hawaiian islands.  The purpose of the proposed research is to gain additional information on the ecological impact in Hawaii of Chamaeleo jacksonii to ascertain whether it merits population management.

Chamaeleo jacksonii was introduced to Hawaii in 1973, released by a pet dealer (McKeown, S. 1996. A field guide to reptiles and amphibians in the Hawaiian Islands. Diamond Head Publishing, Inc., Los Osos, CA.), and spread widely around the state by amateur enthusiasts who captured and released animals in their neighborhoods either out of affection for the animals or because they wished to ranch and sell them under lax State laws.  The species is now known to be well-established on Hawaii, Lanai, Maui, Molokai, and Oahu; animals have also been discovered on Kauai, but it is not yet certain that a population persists there.  The species has been released into native habitats on all of the islands it inhabits except for Lanai.  Population densities have not been numerically estimated in Hawaii, but densities are known to be high, with dozens or hundreds of animals able to be removed from circumscribed areas of a few acres in a period of a few months.  The species introduces to Hawaii a highly novel and effective feeding mechanism, shooting its tongue approximately the length of its body to capture prey.  Native prey items have no evolved defense against such a feeding novelty.  It is known to accept insects, snails, and bird eggs as food; close relatives of larger size are capable of capturing birds on the wing.  The species occurs to an elevation of 2800 m (9100 ft) in its native range in eastern Africa (Nečas, P. 1999. Chameleons: nature’s hidden jewels. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 348 pp.); it has been reported from 2000 m (6800 ft) in Hawaii, although it is uncertain if populations yet persist at that elevation.  In its native range it can tolerate temperatures to at least as low as 5°C (Nečas, 1999).

It’s rapid range expansion into native forest (dry, mesic, and wet), novel feeding mechanism, voracious feeding habits, high population densities, and wide thermal tolerance make it likely that Chamaeleo jacksonii has the potential to exert significant predation pressure on native Hawaiian arthropods.  In the right habitat, it may also affect populations of native treesnails or birds (via consumption of eggs or hatchlings).  However, these reasonable inferences need empirical confirmation to ascertain which native fauna the lizard is coming into contact with.  To that end, colleagues and I have been studying the dietary habits of a population of C. jacksonii introduced to native dry forest at Auwahi, Maui.  Preliminary results from this study suggest that the alien lizard consumes large numbers of native insects.  More surprising is that they largely target very small species, increasing the numbers of native prey consumed and leading to concern that they may affect populations of these prey items.

To complement the results from our dry-forest study, I seek HISC funding to expand this work to include dietary investigations of chameleons from a native wet-forest site.  The intent of this work is to better assess the taxonomic breadth of native arthropod species consumed by chameleons, ascertain whether potential impacts in wet forest rival those seen in dry forest, and determine whether the species merits management.  Of particular concern is identifying whether the lizards are consuming listed (e.g., Drosophila spp.) or candidate species.  The most appropriate location to obtain these samples is from the vicinity of Volcano Village, Hawaii Island, where the lizards are common and inhabit a matrix of vegetation largely dominated by native species.

Evaluating methods for the eradication of invasive tilapia from Hawaiian wetlands

PAHIO Development, Inc., $47,000

Tilapia is a high priority invasive species in Hawaii because this widespread vertebrate pest is linked to the degradation of the coastal wetlands it has invaded. Specifically, tilapia consume all native submerged macrophytes (seagrass and macroalgae) thus driving a phase shift from aquatic vegetation-based systems to degraded ones dominated by mud-dwelling diatoms and cyanobacteria (microphytobenthos). Seagrass and macroalgae serve several functions in Hawaii’s aquatic ecosystems: as a food source for endemic waterbirds, as a habitat for aquatic invertebrates (another food source for waterbirds) and as a filter improving water quality by extracting nutrients and releasing dissolved oxygen. The proposed research project focuses on the Hawaii Invasive Species Committee priority for cost effective, science-based eradication and control strategies of established pests.

The objectives of this proposed work are to:

  1. Evaluate and adapt established invasive fish eradication technologies for use in enclosed/semi-enclosed coastal wetlands in Hawaii;
  2. Develop monitoring approaches to track the success of the fish eradication;
  3. Coordinate the proposed fish control project with ongoing habitat restoration projects to enhance conservation and management efforts;
  4. Educate and train managers and landowners on invasive fish impacts and fish eradication.

This proposed research is critical because coastal wetlands in Hawaii are vulnerable to negative impacts by biological invasions. Recent experimental evidence is demonstrating that introduced fish are driving a detrimental phase shift in primary productivity. Informed management strategies aimed at reversing this trend are urgently needed to eradicate this invasive species from selected sites and integrate these efforts into more broadly-based coastal wetland habitat restoration and endemic waterbird population recovery plans.

Although Randall (1987) recognized that the introduction of tilapia to the Hawaiian Archipelago was among the most regrettable of such actions, research focused the distribution, impacts and management of this invasive fish only recently received attention (Peyton, in prep). Invasive tilapia have established breeding populations in 60% of the 52 coastal wetlands surveyed in Hawaii in 2006 and resulted in the complete loss of a seagrass (Ruppia) and the co-occurring green macroalgae in the invaded wetlands (Peyton, in prep).

Tilapia possess a combination of evolutionary traits that prove essential for the fish to thrive in novel environments: (1) high fecundity, (2) ability to reach sexually maturity at an early age, (3) rapid growth rate and (4) wide tolerance of environmental variables including dietary sources.

Several studies in the freshwater systems have reported a nearly total loss of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) after the introduction of tilapia (Brock, 1960, Crutchfield, 1995, Hauser, 1975, Legner & Fisher, 1980). Crutchfield (1995) reports the accidental introduction of Tilapia zillii into a freshwater reservoir initiated a trophic cascade that began with a complete loss of SAV succeeded by significant declines in three native fish populations that utilize SAV for refuge or spawning substrate. Until recently, any negative impacts by introduced tilapia in coastal marine and estuarine habitats were inferred, and suggested only in reference to other vertebrates such as waterbirds (Stinson et al., 1991) and native fishes (Jennings & Williams, 1992, Lobel, 1980, Randall, 1987). Research in Hawaii was the first to experimentally demonstrate that introduced tilapia in estuarine and marine areas can transform a seagrass and macroalgal dominated system to one with only microphytobentos, with the fish maintaining their invasive population at this lower-tropic level system because they are versatile consumers (Peyton, in prep).

As Randall (1987) speculated, the more aggressive tilapia may out compete native fish such as mullet (Mugil cephalus) for these same food resources in Hawaiian estuarine and marine systems. Stinson et al. (1991) hypothesized that introduced tilapia may have contributed to the decline of the endemic moorhen in the Mariana Islands however no mechanism was suggested. Indirect competition, specifically competition for food resources, between introduced tilapia and endemic waterbirds was recently proposed for the Hawaiian system (Peyton, in prep). Further, after recent phylogenetic work unexpectedly found two species of Ruppia in Hawaii, it became clear that invasive tilapia is also threatening the genetic diversity of Hawaiian seagrasses (Peyton, in prep).

Economic benefits of this research project include increased opportunities for wildlife-related recreational activities for local residents and visitors. Wildlife viewing, particularly birding, has increased substantially within the United States. During 2001, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported 220,000 people participated in wildlife viewing activities in Hawaii, with an estimated expenditure of over $131 million and $7.4 million in Hawaii state sales tax revenue. Local residents and visitors will be able to enjoy viewing increased populations of Hawaii’s endemic endangered waterbirds, because of improved wetland habitats following the eradication/control of tilapia and other invasive species.

Improving the Spatial Accuracy of Image-Based Weed Mapping Technology to Evaluate Weed Control Efforts

The Nature Conservancy, $34,440

Problem Statement:

Protecting large areas of Hawaii’s remaining native forests from invasive plant species requires a landscape-scale weed control approach applied in a rapid and precise manner combined with a mapping system able to identify outlying weed individuals within large expanses of native forest. Ideally, this mapping system, applied incrementally over time, could also monitor the efficacy of the control program and the spread of the target weeds. The sooner managers are able to determine whether or not the spread of the target weeds are outpacing weed control efforts, the faster they are able to adapt and respond. Clearly, this real-time monitoring capability is essential to controlling a landscape-scale weed infestation. However improvements to the accuracy of a new, remote sensing-based weed mapping technology need are needed before this capability materializes.

Helicopter surveys conducted from 2003-2006 detected Australian tree fern (ATF) distributed throughout Kauai’s 142,000-acre watershed, with numerous outlying individuals established in the most remote native forest core. Realizing the urgency of the infestation The Nature Conservancy’s Kauai Program (TNC-Kauai), working with scientists and contractors, began an intensive research and development program in 2006 to map and control ATF in the 10,000-acre core of Kauai’s native forested watershed. This two-pronged program focused on developing a high-precision aerial herbicide application techniques and a cutting-edge remote sensing approach to map and monitor the ATF.

There were two critical aspects to developing this weed mapping system. The first challenge was to acquire natural color and multi-spectral imagery of a high enough resolution to detect ATF and other weeds. The second challenge was to locate those images in three-dimensional space (georeference), and associate geographic coordinates to individual plants with a level of accuracy precise enough for managers to locate, treat, and monitor them. In 2006, TNC contracted USGS- BRD to begin testing existing imaging technology to determine the feasibility of developing such a system. After two years, the group developed a viable mapping system and commercialized the process through a company called Resource Mapping Hawaii (RMH), to make it available to managers throughout the state.

Currently, RMH, under contract with TNC-Kauai, is collecting, processing and analyzing imagery from the core of Kaua‘i’s watershed. This imaging system combines, georeferenced extremely high-resolution natural color (1.5cm/pixel) with high-resolution multi-spectral (15cm/pixel) images to indentify and assign a geographic coordinate to each ATF individual. At the same time, Interisland Helicopters, also contracted by TNC-Kauai, is treating ATF in Wainiha Valley with a high-precision aerial herbicide applicator, and collecting GPS coordinates for each treated individual. The sprayed ATF coordinates overlayed onto the images with the mapped ATF points provides a direct quantitative measure of progress toward treating the ATF infestation in a particular area.

The next step is to upgrade the current weed mapping system to a weed monitoring system, capable of measuring the near-term efficacy of the herbicide treatments and the long-term rate of weed recruitment and re-colonization into the treated areas. This would entail re-flying the treatment areas to collect images after the herbicide has had a chance to kill the target weeds and comparing the before and after images, with the treatment data collected by the GPS in the helicopter. While this may sound simple enough in concept, there are some technical issues that need to be understood and addressed and a couple of different approaches need to be tested for TNC and RMH to use this system as monitoring tool.

The data as it is collected now is georeferenced in two steps. First, initial ground control points are mathematically derived from GPS positions taken from the plane, and projected to the ground using data on the plane’s spatial orientation (pitch, roll, and yaw) recorded with the aircraft’s Internal Navigation System (INS) . While this approach is relatively accurate, the error can still be significant. Once the imagery has initially been referenced using this data, the next step is to take the Digital Quad (DOQ) data provided by the USGS (which is the most accurate topographic data we have for most areas) and register the imagery to that source.

Unfortunately, the DOQ data is not accurate enough to track individual plants over time. There is usually a 2 to 8 meter RMS (error) associated with the DOQ data for most areas. While this RMS value is not extreme, it can be problematic when looking between data sets over time. For example, if we are trying to determine if an individual plant within a tightly grouped cluster has survived herbicide treatment, then our accuracy between time periods needs to be much closer than 8 meters. Another potential source of error is incurred during management activities. When weed control activities are performed, a GPS position is taken for the area or individual plant treated. This GPS position has an error of its own, but may be more exact than the image registration. The result of these two error sources (coregistration error between images and the difference between the GPS accuracy and image accuracy) is that between the survey, treatment, and monitoring stages there may be 3 different positions determined for the same individual plant location.

The potential for the biological control of wild ginger (Hedychium spp.)

CABI UK, $43,000

Problem Statement:

The Hedychium or wild ginger species complex encompasses 3 highly invasive species in the family Zingiberaceae: H. gardnerianum (Kahili or “wild”ginger), H. flavescens (yellow ginger) and H. coronarium (white ginger).

Native to the North Eastern slopes of the Indian Himalayas (with H. coronarium also reported endemic to Southern China) these fragrant, showy, rhizomatous perennial herbs have been widely introduced as ornamentals to various regions of the world. They have subsequently escaped to become serious weeds of riverbanks, natural/managed forests, montane rainforests and wetlands, where they form large and dense thickets, crowding out vegetation and preventing the establishment of native shrubs and trees as well as contributing to erosion on steep slopes.

H. gardnerianum is considered the most invasive species of the genus; its biological characteristics, threat to endangered taxa and impact on biodiversity have earned it distinction as one of the “World’s 100 worst invasive alien species” and was high scoring in a 2005 PIER Risk Assessment for Hawaii and other Pacific Islands where it was identified as “likely to cause significant ecological or economic harm”.

Introduced to Hawaii by the horticultural industry, Kahili ginger escaped cultivation and was first recorded in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (HVNP) in 1954. Populations have now naturalised and spread to all islands in Hawai’i between sea level and 1700m. A large, aggressive, nitrogen-demanding and a shade-tolerant coloniser, its biogeochemical effects are compounded by the dense shade and network of tubers and roots formed in invaded areas. These combine to act as an effective barrier to native plant establishment and can thus alter successional pathways. Not only is the viability of undisturbed, pristine native rainforests such as those currently dominated by ohia-lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) under threat, but also rare endemic species such as Clermontia samuelii and Labordia tinifolia var. lanaiensis. Kahili ginger currently covers over 500 ha from 1000-1300 m elevation in HVNP, and especially large populations occur in South western Kipahulu Valley between 1,070 to 1100m and Kohala state and private lands. A preliminary estimate for the cost of conservation management programmes, in 2007-2008, against Kahili ginger in the Hawaiian Islands, has been conservatively calculated at $1 million. The infested area is estimated at close to 50,000 acres, although this is likely to be an underestimate as it does not include the full range of invading outlier populations (Pat Bily, TNCH, Pers. Comm.). Many areas infested with monotypic ginger are deemed lost causes and intensive mapping and scouting missions are now concentrating efforts on mitigating incursions into high value natural areas.

Prolific seed production, regrowth of rhizomes and inflorescences subsequent to shoot removal and poor accessibility can all compromise the mechanical control of this plant. Environmental concerns such as soil leaching, contamination of ground water and non-target effects coupled with ginger’s widespread distribution with some large infestations also limit and/or preclude the use of herbicides in many areas. H.flavescens and H. coronarium are also weedy in Hawaii but are usually confined to forest edges and wet habitats on all islands (large infestations on Nahiku, Maui, Puna and Kohala mountains in particular) rather than the forest understorey. Hybrids between H. coronarium and H. gardnerianum are also reported and favour the simultaneous seed production of H. gardnerianum.

Biological control has long been considered the only practical and viable solution to long-term management of large Hedychium infestations in native, ecologically sensitive forests. Because of the economic importance of cultivated ginger and the extensive use of these species in gardens and for lei making (flower garlands) in Hawaii, potential opposition to biological control from horticulturists cannot be overlooked; indeed conflicts of interest are already challenging other weed targets in Hawaii, emphasising the importance of education and outreach when dealing with sensitive cases. A biological control project was initiated against Kahili ginger in Hawaii using a virulent soil-borne, pathogenic wilt-causing bacterium, Ralstonia solanacearum, isolated from edible ginger. With a technology unlikely to provide the solution to large scale infestations and a lack of specificity of the strains trialled, this project was abandoned. No thorough natural enemy survey in the native range of these ginger species had ever been carried out.

Recognising that classical biocontrol could provide an answer and spurred by ginger’s prominent and growing weed status in a number of countries worldwide, a consortium of sponsors from Hawaii (TNC and USGS-PIERC) and New Zealand (Landcare Research) helped fund the first phase (scoping study) of a biological control project in May 2008.

Comprehensive literature and herbarium reviews in the UK provided information on the specific areas of origin of all three target Hedychium species, as well as a preliminary inventory of known associated natural enemies in the introduced and native range. Building on established collaborative links, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between CABI and strategically placed Forestry Research Institutes in India. A student was appointed to consolidate the background research on the species from the Indian literature and to facilitate surveys, which were successfully undertaken to cover Assam, Meghalaya, West Bengal and Sikkim in the Eastern Himalayan foothills over an intensive ten day period in October 2008. The Indian Forestry collaboration was absolutely essential to the success of this survey, not least in acquiring all the necessary permissions to sample and collect specimens in the field, often in restricted and sensitive areas. All three species of Hedychium were found growing in scattered, non-invasive populations in their natural environment, hosting a large suite of damaging arthropod natural enemies including leaf rollers and leaf miners, seed and stem borers as well as fungal pathogens such as leaf spots and stem rots. Given the imposed restrictions currently faced by Western (and national) scientists in India due to tightening of the Biodiversity Act, this field work was pioneering and helped identify and develop all of the correct legislative, administrative and collaborative channels to facilitate this and further surveys and obtain key information about the species locations and seasonal life stages. CABI is in a unique position to build on the exciting results of this first survey and to identify those agents which hold the most promise as potential biocontrol agents.

The Value of Preventing Solenopsis invicta from Invading Hawaii

University of Hawaii, $22,719

Problem Statement:

The establishment of Solenopsis invicta (Red Imported Fire Ant, or RIFA) in Hawaii has the potential to cost $2.5 billion dollars over a 20-year period1 (Gutrich et. al 2007). This is a minimum estimate, as it is comprised mostly of damages to agriculture, infrastructure, businesses, government, households, and tourism and does not account for the non-market effects on the environment or ecology of the state. Lessons learned from previous RIFA invasions around the world indicate that long-term costs may be greatly minimized through prevention, early detection and existing rapid response infrastructure. What is not currently known is the value of Hawaii’s interdiction activities related to RIFA. This project hopes to address this deficiency.

This project aims to strengthen current economic analysis regarding the impact of RIFA establishment in Hawaii by carrying out the logical next step proposed by Gutrich et al. (2007) in their Environmental Science & Policy paper entitled, “Potential economic impact of introduction and spread of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, in Hawaii.” They recommend quantifying the reduction in the likelihood of RIFA establishment per dollar allocated towards establishment prevention efforts. This cost for establishment prevention efforts can then be compared to the estimated benefit of avoiding the consequences of RIFA establishment as measured by Gutrich et al.

The audience for this study would include the agencies specified by the Hawaii Ant Group as partners for prevention, specifically the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) along with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Hawaii Ant Group would benefit from this information since their August 2007 revision of “A plan for prevention of establishment of new ant species in Hawaii, with special attention to the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) and little fire ant (Wasmannia auropunctata)” will be used as a foundation for defining establishment prevention efforts to help strengthen and justify the overall goal of preventing RIFA establishment in Hawaii.

S. invicta was intercepted only once by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture in 1991. Despite federal quarantine efforts it has spread over 125 million ha in the southern United States since the mid-1930s (Krushelnycky et al. 2005). It reached California in 1998 and now poses a direct threat to Hawaii given the significant quantity of imports coming from and through California. In 1997, California shipped approximately 1,127 thousand short tons a year to Hawaii (Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2008). Outside of intrastate shipments, California is by far the largest domestic shipper to Hawaii. According to Vinson (1997) RIFA spread westward across the southern U.S. at a rate of 125 miles/year (198km/year). Gutrich et al. (2007) uses the conservative estimate of 5 miles2/year/mile2 inhabited (8 km2/year/km2).

Gutrich et al. (2007) estimated the total annual damages to agriculture, infrastructure, business, government, household, recreation, tourism, and foregone outdoor opportunity costs of RIFA to Hawaii’s economy at $211.2 million per year, or $2.5 billion dollars over 20 years. These losses address an array of issues including public health and safety, agriculture, industry, biodiversity and quality of life. RIFA are aggressive and have been known to injure and cause death to people, wildlife, livestock and pets (Vinson 1997, Williams et al. 2001, Wojcik et al. 2001). The invasive ants cause damage to infrastructure such as roads, power distribution systems, communication systems, traffic signals, airport runway lights, air conditioners, computers, well pumps and irrigation systems (Vinson 1997, Vinson and Mackay 1990). Colonies have been known to form indoors compromising homes, businesses and other buildings (Vinson 1997, Rupp and DeShazo 2006). This would have a considerable effect on the state’s main economic engine, as well as on the quality of life to Hawaii’s residents.

Evaluating Policy Options to Reduce the Risk of Ohia Rust in Hawaii

University of Hawaii, $27,433

Problem Statement:

In April 2005, a strain of the Neotropical rust fungus Puccinia psidii was first found on an ohia (Metrosideros polymorpha) plant in the Hawaiian Islands and given the name “ohia rust” by Hawaii Department of Agriculture. However, although the rust has spread throughout the islands, the damage of the rust to ohia is so far minimal. This rust, notorious for a broad host range for plants of the Myrtle family (Myrtaceae), destroyed the allspice industry on Jamaica in the 1930s and devastated large non-native Eucalyptus plantations in Brazil (where the rust is native and common on guava, Psidium guajava) in the 1970s (Coutinho et al. 1998). Fortunately, the strain of P. psidii that invaded the Hawaiian Islands most virulently infects the non-native rose apple tree Syzygium jambos. Two rare native species of the genus Eugenia have also been seriously damaged by the rust, E. koolauensis and E. reinwardtiana, both known as nioi in Hawaiian. Unfortunately, many different strains of P. psidii exist and could virulently infect other members of the Myrtle family; forests of native ohia are at risk of being decimated (Loope and La Rosa 2008).

The ohia plant, Metrosideros polymorpha, comprises nearly 80% of the native Hawaiian forests and covers approximately 400,000 hectares on the Hawaiian Islands. It provides habitat to a wide range of Hawaiian fauna including a majority of its native bird species. Not surprising in view of its dominance in the forest, its importance to Hawaiian culture is paramount.

On August 28th, 2007, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture placed a temporary ban on imports of Myrtaceae from California, Florida, and South America to avoid possible new strains of P. psidii infecting the islands (Tanji 2007). The ban recently expired and Myrtaceae are again being imported to the islands. Now the Department of Agriculture is faced with the need for an appropriate permanent rule. However, the relative costs and benefits of a ban vs. a standard agricultural quarantine have yet to be explored. It is the purpose of this research project to quantify more accurately the costs and benefits of the sale of imported Myrtaceae in the Hawaiian Islands. Furthermore, we will examine the relative advantages and disadvantages of implementing either a quarantine policy or a full ban on imported Myrtaceae.

Invasive species management using prevention and control technologies in the West Maui mountains

Malama Kahalawai, Inc., $27,620

The West Maui Mountains Watershed Partnership has completed its work for the 2009 Hawaii Invasive Species Committee Grant. The following report attempts to summarize our achievements. Although the some of the deliverables of this grant were not achieved as well as we would have liked due to technological limitations, we feel that we used the resources successfully for their best and highest use. One of the main thrusts of this grant was to use imagery from Resource Mapping Hawaii to identify priority weed species, however, since we had issues with our imagery due to poor weather and rugged terrain, our analysis and ground truthing was limited. On September 20, 2012, a total of $13,348.41 was approved for a re- budget from the categories of “image collection/ analysis, data management, and training” to a new budget category for “helicopter operations” as well as the movement of monies from the “technical report” budget category to a “weed management plan” category. With this, we were able to complete our WMMWP 5-year Weed Management Plan as well as mapping of Macaranga tanarius and Toona ciliata using helicopter surveys. We were able to purchase a new GIS workstation and have continued our participation and made significant strides within our Maui Data Hui to standardize data systems within island programs. The overarching lesson learned is that technological advances in image collection are still in development and that technology may not perform to expectations in challenging environments like those found in West Maui. We are still hopeful that new developments will make weed control easier and will continue to attempt to integrate these advances when possible.

Final Report

Applying state of the art remote sensing technology to invasive species management in East Maui

Tri Isle Conservation, $41,620

Problem Statement:

One of the biggest challenges with managing the invasive species crisis in Hawaii is the limited ability by managers to detect unwanted pests, especially in the remote and rugged terrain characteristic of Hawaii’s native watershed areas. For the most part, the only reliable tools for detecting and assessing invasive species in these areas are helicopter surveys and exhaustive on-the-ground searches by field staff. Generally, both methods are effective but have serious limitations: they are expensive, potentially dangerous, extremely time consuming and, often times, cause significant damage to non-target resources. As a result, many high priority pests go undetected, and managers are unable to identify or respond to these threats until they expand to larger “detectable levels” which are far more difficult to manage or are beyond the means of conventional control techniques. It is imperative that the conservation community continually develop better tools to more effectively detect and rapidly respond to invasive species before they reach unmanageable levels.

Resource Mapping Hawaii (RMH) is a Kauai-based firm that is currently developing remote sensing technologies to address this issue. RMH conducts fixed-wing aerial surveys which provide multi-spectral and detailed natural color images at extremely high spatial resolution. These geo-rectified images can be analyzed to identify specific plant or animal species (including individual plants) across large landscapes and rugged terrain. RMH has been able to consistently identify a number of highly invasive plant species in Hawaii, including Strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum), and Australian tree fern (Cyathea cooperi), and is developing this capacity for other weeds. This technology, when fully developed, will allow managers to quickly and safely assess large areas for invasive weed presence, as well as provide useful baseline data for long-term vegetation composition, health, and change over time.

The East Maui Watershed Partnership (EMWP) proposes to contract RMH to provide data and training to assess weeds and vegetation across approximately 20,000 acres of State and private lands on East Maui. These lands are the site of on-going and future management efforts and have been identified as the highest priority for protection by the Partnership.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC), The National Park Service (NPS), the Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), the Maui Invasive Species Committee (MISC), and other regional managers have expressed their interest in collaborating on this project. Haleakala National Park has applied for project funding, that, if granted, would be used to expand the coverage of this proposal to include portions of the Park’s rainforest as well as areas of East Maui most threatened by Miconia (Miconia calvescens) and Pampas grass (Cortaderia jubata). TNC Maui is also seeking in-house funding for a similar RMH project in portions of Waikamoi Preserve, Koolau Forest Reserve, and on lands owned by East Maui Irrigation (EMI). The exact survey boundaries for this (HISC) proposal may be slightly modified, and will depend on whether or not the funding requests of these other agencies are successful. To avoid redundancy, all survey work will be coordinated amongst the various stakeholders. It is the hope of the Partnership that, eventually, data sets will be obtained for all of East Maui so that multi-agency management efforts can be coordinated on a landscape level.

HISC Support and Overhead

  1. $80,000 to DLNR for budget restriction
  2. $96,700 to DOFAW for overhead
  3. $210,000 to Central Services Fee
  4. $135,000 to HISC Support Staff