NARS Managing the NARS

Management of native ecosystems involves understanding what threatens these areas and actively working to protect them. “Management” actions can be broken up into several broad categories:

Non-native Animal Control

Ungulates (hooved animals), such as pigs, deer, goats, sheep, and cattle all have a serious effect on native ecosystems – particularly on the ground layer of vegetation. Native plants evolved without the need to defend themselves against large animals; most have no thorns or toxins to keep animals from grazing on them. Very few native plants have deep root systems, and cannot survive when the soil around them has been trampled and compacted. Small mammals, such as mongoose, rats, and mice, can also be a serious threat. They prey on native birds and nests, feed on the seeds and seedlings of native plants, and carry diseases such as leptospirosis which can harm humans as well as animals. Actively removing animals is often required to limit their effects. Public hunting and staff control, fencing, one-way gates, and other innovative actions are components of successful animal control efforts.

Non-native Plant Pest Control

Non-native plants can pose serious threats to the native Hawaiian ecosystems. Certain weeds have the ability to spread quickly, establish themselves in many types of forest habitats, and take over large areas. They do this by out-competing the native plants, particularly at the seedling stage. Control of these weeds requires a variety of measures, including pulling by hand, herbicides, or biological control – where natural enemies of the weed are used for control.

Restoration and Habitat Enhancement

Management of native ecosystems may also require restoring or enchancing existing populations of native birds or plants. Increasing the number of existing individuals of rare plants through propagation and out-planting programs or increasing the number of rare birds through captaive breeding and release are among the tools available. Maintaining or restoring the dynamic natural processes is the goal of native ecosystem protection and restoration programs.


A comprehensive program that helps managers understand what resources are present in each specific area, their health and abundance, and what threats are present. Monitoring actions include periodic surveys of reserves to gather information on the status and condition of resources within the reserve, the status and extent of threats to those resources, and the success or failure of management actions.

Public Information and Education

Without a clear understanding of what native ecosystem management involves and why it is needed, public support for these programs will be difficult to obtain. Information and education should be incorporated into protection efforts whenever possible. An education program that includes products such as informational brochures, video productions, speakers to address school and community groups, and an active outreach and volunteer program are all important conservation strategies.


Sound scientific research should be the base for management programs and activities.
Research on the life history of bird and plant species as well as projects aimed at
determining the causes of decline or limiting factors of restoration efforts are part of the program.

More information: Management Policies of the Natural Area Reserves System (1997)

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