Management of Ungulates on Mauna Kea reportPosted on Dec 15, 2014 in News and Events
Newly published is the article Evaluating the long-term management of introduced ungulates to protect the palila, an endangered bird, and its critical habitat in subalpine forest of Mauna Kea, Hawai‘i. It focuses heavily on the sheep eradication program (through 2011), vegetation response, and palila status and trends. The paper appears in a special issue of Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research that highlights research and management issues in the alpine and subalpine environments of tropical islands around the world.
Under the multiple-use paradigm, conflicts may arise when protection of an endangered species must compete with other management objectives. To resolve such a conflict in the Critical Habitat of the endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper, palila (Loxioides bailleui), federal courts ordered the eradication of introduced ungulates responsible for damaging the māmane (Sophora chrysophylla) forest on which paliladepend. During 1980−2011, a total of 18,130 sheep (Ovis aries and O. gmelini musimon) and 310 goats (Capra hircus) were removed from PalilaCritical Habitat (PCH) primarily by public hunters (54%) and secondarily by aerial shooting. Nevertheless, our analysis indicates that ungulates have increased over time. Palila numbers have declined sharply since 2003 due to long-term habitat degradation by ungulates and drought. Although culling ungulate populations has allowed some habitat improvement, their complete removal is necessary for palila to recover, especially given the potential for continued drought. Introduced predators are being controlled to reduce palila mortality, māmane and other native trees are being planted to restore some areas, and fencing is being constructed to prevent ungulate immigration. Funds are recently available for more effective eradication efforts, which are urgently needed to eliminate browsing damage in PCH and protect the palila from extinction.