PEP Annual Report – FY 2006

Plant Extinction Prevention (PEP) Program

Objectives

The goal of the Plant Extinction Prevention (PEP) Program is to prevent the extinction of plants with fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild. These species are referred to in this report as “PEP species.”

To attain this goal, the PEP Program has adopted seven basic program objectives:

  1. Collect genetic material (fruit, cuttings, meristematic tissue or other propagule) from each individual plant of a PEP species for ex situ propagation, tissue culture, or seed storage;
  2. Monitor wild populations of PEP species;
  3. Survey new areas for additional populations of PEP species;
  4. Mitigate threats, as needed (within appropriate state and federal regulations and landowner protocols);
  5. Reintroduce PEP species to protected areas through outplanting; and
  6. Gather population information and prioritize PEP species through input from experts, partners, and other cooperators.
  7. Provide administrative and partner support to conduct objectives 1-6.

Performance

In Fiscal Year 2008 (July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008), the Plant Extinction Prevention (PEP) Program focused its field efforts on preventing the extinction of its 184 target species, that is, those species that number fewer than 50 individuals remaining. This year, the PEP Program conducted monitoring for 135 species, placing 94 of these into ex situ or off-site cultivation at either a cooperating rare plant nursery or botanical garden, tissue culture at the Lyon Arboretum’s Micropropagation Lab or in the Center for Conservation Research and Training Seed Storage Lab. In addition to these totals, surveys were conducted for 107 species, of which 18 species were either rediscovered or new populations were found.

To protect the founders in the wild, the threats were managed for 28 species. This entailed alien plant control, fence construction and maintenance, rat trapping, and bagging fruits to protect them from invertebrate and rodent pests. Several noteworthy projects or finds include: the joint Hesperomannia arbuscula pollination program on Oahu that have already resulted in dozens of seedlings; the discovery of the only known plant of Kadua cordata var. remyi on Maui; rediscoveries of two mints on Molokai: and a rediscovery of Clermontia peleana ssp. peleana on Hawaii Island that will result in the reintroduction of at least 4,000 plants to their natural habitats in Fiscal Year 2009; the construction of a technically challenging fence around a newly discovered population of Mauna Kea silverswords, which involved the State Natural Area Reserve, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Silversword Alliance, Office of Mauna Kea Management, contract archeologists, and others without whose assistance the project could not come to fruition. These are just a sample of the many notable PEP projects and discoveries on Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Hawaii.

Each island’s focus on these objectives is a reflection of how long the program has been in existence. At present, Oahu PEP Program is 4 years old and is the most mature of our island programs. At present, it is engaged in all six objectives. The Oahu PEP report is presented in a different format than that of the Maui Nui and Hawaii Island reports. The current Oahu PEP Coordinator is shifting out of her position and provided valuable project history information in her report to preserve institutional knowledge. The Maui Nui Program, which is 3 years old, focused on objectives 1 through 4, with some outplanting projects. The Hawaii Island Program, which began in May 2007, is focused on objectives 1 through 5. The Kauai PEP Program is presently in its third round of advertisement for its Coordinator and a new hire is expected by September 2008. A person was hired as a temporary coordinator in late June 2008, with no field activities to report; substantial progress on Kauai is expected in FY09.

This summarizes the work PEP conducted for PEP species as well as for other critically rare species/taxa that may also be on the brink of extinction as well. Often, staff will manage and collect from other rare populations because of their proximity to populations of PEP species. PEP considers these actions, secondary to the protection of PEP species but very important to conduct as long as it does not detract or draw resources from PEP work. More specific objectives for each species are explicitly stated in each island reports that follow this report.

Objective 1. Collect genetic material (fruit, cuttings, meristematic tissue, spores, pollen or other form of propagule) from all plants of target PEP species for ex situ propagation and live plant storage, tissue culture, or seed storage.

This objective was a major part of PEP’s program this fiscal year because of the large number of species (193) that warrant PEP species status. The purpose of collecting plant fruit, cuttings, or other propagules is to preserve the genetic material of as many remaining founders as possible as the threats causing the species’ decline are being mitigated. This safe-keeping measure places the collections in ex situ propagation and live plant storage, tissue culture, or seed storage, where the staff is able to preserve that material should the populations continue to decline. This material can then be used for reintroduction programs geared toward the recovery of the species.

This fiscal year, the PEP program successfully collected propagules from 94 plant taxa and placed them in ex situ protection. This represents a 33% increase from last year (63). More specifically, Oahu PEP Program made collections for 18 plant taxa. The Maui Program collected propagules from 39 plant taxa and the Hawaii Island Program collected 37 plant taxa. These numbers do not reflect repeat visits to the plants that are sometimes necessary to make the collections, or the number of populations that are visited.

Objective 2. Monitor wild populations of target PEP species.

In FY08, the PEP Program monitored populations of 135 critically rare plant species that are PEP targets, an increase from 87 species from last year. There were extirpations of 9 species on Oahu, Maui Nui, and Hawaii Island. This number is grossly underestimated because the focus on Hawaii Island this fiscal year was to visit all populations to obtain current numbers. It was found that most of the PEP species on Hawaii Island have undergone significant reductions in number since they were last observed. Using this new baseline, only two species suffered declines in the past year.

Objective 3. Survey new areas for additional populations of PEP species.

The discovery of additional founder plants can greatly increase the species’ chances of recovery and therefore surveys are considered high priority actions. Surveys conducted specifically to look for additional populations were conducted for 9 species on Oahu, 47 for Maui Nui, and 51 on Hawaii Island (107 total) this fiscal year. Surveys of this type have resulted in the discovery of additional plants of 18 PEP species, 7 of which represent new populations. Additional surveys are generally conducted at and around already known populations and many new individuals of that population have been found this way. The number of species for which the surveys were conducted depended greatly on the proximity of those species, terrain, weather, and other variables.

Objective 4. Mitigate threats to PEP plants, as needed (within appropriate state and federal regulations and landowner protocols).

Monitoring the populations of PEP species during each visit help to identify potential, imminent, and current threats to they may be addressed accordingly. Most of the threats are weeds, rats, slugs, ungulates, and fire. Stochastic events such as hurricanes, landslides, flashfloods, etc., while difficult to address, also impact PEP species because so few numbers remain. This fiscal year, PEP staff protected 28 PEP species through focused weed control, rat control, ungulate control or exclusion, and slug exclusion.

Weed control generally entailed manual or chemical removal of pest plants. Although rat depredation is a severe threat to remote populations of PEP species, PEP Coordinators were unable to implement rat control using approved rodenticide treatments because of PEP’s inadequacy of financial resources that is required to institute a wide scale rat baiting program. Such a program is not practical at this time. However, two hold Restricted Pesticide Applicators licenses should aerial application of rodenticides be approved. Ungulate control involved hunting, especially for pig and axis deer. Ungulate exclusion entailed the construction of large exclosures to preserve habitat for long-term protection and smaller exclosures immediately around individual or groups of plants to address imminent and immediate threats as a short-term mitigation. Sometimes, management involves the maintenance of pre-existing fences to ensure they maintain their ability to keep target animals out. Slug exclusion often involved bagging fruit with mesh bags and periodically rechecking them and fruit collected when appropriate.

Objective 5. Reintroduce PEP species to protected areas through outplanting.

Reintroduction of PEP species back into the wild is an integral part of the recovery of these species. This fiscal year, OPEP led in the number of species reintroduced to natural habitats. The Oahu PEP Coordinator conducted outplantings for 10 species, by working closely with private landowners in fenced sites that are regularly managed by PEP staff or the landowner. This fiscal year, the Maui Nui PEP Coordinator coordinated the outplanting of four (4) PEP species in protected areas in Maui Nui. The Hawaii Island PEP Coordinator, coordinated and conducted reintroductions of three (3) species. The Hawaii PEP Coordinator spent a significant amount of time assisting the horticulturalist at the Volcano Rare Plant Facility to transplant seedlings to larger pots as a boon of various species of lobeliads were propagated from seeds and needed preparation for eventual outplantings in the winter and spring months of FY09. To prepare the sites for the reintroduction of PEP species, the Hawaii PEP Coordinator has organized, coordinated, or is in the process of developing landownership agreements to construct eight (8) protected, fenced units on federal and state land. To date, two fencing projects are completed.

Objective 6. Gather population information and prioritize PEP species through input from experts, partners, and other cooperators.

The PEP Program’s success is based in collaboration with other plant experts, partners, and cooperators. An important part of the program is ensuring that the most current population information for PEP species is documented and used to prioritize PEP target species. To do this, island programs hold semi-annual or annual meetings with island plant experts to update PEP population information and solicit advice on PEP priorities. On March 14, a meeting was held on Maui and on Oahu on March 20. Members of the Hawaii Rare Plant Restoration Group that are on-island botanists and experts assisted the PEP Program to update population information for rare species on the island and to populate the PEP database to establish species priorities. These meetings will be held regularly in FY 09.

Recent information gathered through surveys by PEP staff or from other partners revealed that, for some species, many more plants existed that warranted its removal from the PEP list or had taxonomic problems that remain unresolved. This has resulted in the downgrading of the following PEP targets to a lower priority: Chamaesyce deppeana, Cyrtandra kaulantha, Cyrtandra polyantha, Cyrtandra sessilis, and Lysimachia filifolia on Oahu and Christella boydiae, Clermontia samuelii ssp. hanaensis, Cyanea hamatiflora, Cyanea mceldownyi, Cyrtandra oxybapha, Melicope haleakalae, and Remya mauiensis on Maui. These species will continue to be evaluated and placed back on the PEP list, as appropriate. Correspondingly, about 12 species were added to the list because they were found to have fewer than 50 individuals because of local extirpations.

Objective 7: Provide administrative and partner support to conduct objectives 1-6.

Significant progress was made in FY 08 with the addition of a temporary Kauai PEP Coordinator on June 18, 2008 as a permanent coordinator is sought for that island. The permanent Kauai PEP Coordinator has been a wonderful addition to the PEP Program and has jump started PEP’s efforts on Kauai. Although PEP was unsuccessful in securing a “permanent” PEP Coordinator for Kauai during our second round of interviews, the search is ongoing and final selection is expected in September 2008.

This year, there was a shift of personnel for the Oahu PEP Technician position. The new OPEP Technician served the same position in the past so hit the ground running when she rejoined the team and remains an invaluable asset.

At present, the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii has placed a moratorium on all vertical rapelling until insurance issues are resolved. As a result, PEP Coordinators were unable to reach populations of fruiting individuals of Lobelia monostachya, Phyllostegia hirsuta, and Schiedea kaalae on Oahu this year. In FY08, Island Coordinators focused on improving safety protocols and some issues, like rappelling, is still unresolved. Further improvements are expected in FY09

The Program also provided substantial assistance to the State DOFAW, Pacific Basin Information Node, and the Hawaii Biodiversity Mapping Program with the development of the Statewide Rare Plant Database. Involvement is expected to continue through FY09 as the PEP Program will test the database by entering its data into the database in preparation for statewide use. This fiscal year, the PEP Program has developed more concrete relationships with conservation partners to improve collaboration of PEP species on multiple islands.

In FY08, the Oahu PEP Program adopted populations of seven species (Cryptocaria mannii, Cyanea pinnatifida, Gardenia brighamii, Hesperomannia arbuscula, Pritchardia sp. A, Solanum sandwicensis, Urera kaalae) from The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii when TNC stepped down from rare plant management. These species occur exclusively or predominantly in Honouliuli Preserve so responsibilities for these species are now shared primarily with the Army Natural Resources Division and have increased the workload of OPEP significantly. On Hawaii Island, the plant propagator at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has left, leaving a gap in planning PEP recovery activities there. In response, the Hawaii PEP Coordinator will be assisting the National Park Service (NPS) to fill that role. This will likely increase his work load so an assessment will be made in the second quarter FY09 to determine if this is a viable solution for PEP and NPS.

Because the PEP Program deals with species that span multiple land ownership boundaries, the protection of PEP species requires a coordinated approach with many agencies, organizations, and landowners. Coordination may involve arranging access to lands to survey or make collections, providing and receiving information about PEP species between partners, sharing transportation costs to and from plant populations, etc. In addition, the PEP program often shares plant protection goals with other conservation entities for species that fall under their jurisdiction. It is then the responsibility of each island coordinator to coordinate the recovery actions for a particular species to ensure a coordinated approach and reduce the duplication of effort.

This fiscal year, PEP staff worked closely with many conservation partners, landowners, and cooperators: Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, District offices and Natural Area Reserves Offices; US Fish and Wildlife Service (Ecological Services and various refuge offices); The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii; US Army Natural Resources Division (Oahu, Hawaii Island), islands watershed partnerships (Koolau Mountains, East Molokai,West Maui Mountains, East Maui, Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration, Three Mountain Alliance); cooperating rare plant facilities and botanical gardens (Volcano Rare Plant Facility, Pahole Rare Plant Nursery, Hoolawa Farms, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, Leeward Community College Nursery, and others); National Park Service (Hawaii Volcanoes NP and Haleakala NP, Kalaupapa NHP); Lyon Arboretum Micropropagation and Seed Storage facilities; Hawaii Biodiversity Mapping Program; Pacific Basin Information Node, Bishop Museum Herbarium Pacificum; City and County of Honolulu; Invasive Species Committees (Oahu, Maui, Big Island, Kauai); Native Hawaiian Plant Society; Board of Water Supply; Kamehameha Schools; Castle and Cook; East Maui Irrigation Company; Haleakala Ranch; Ike Aina; Kawela Plantation Homeowner’s Association; Makila Land Co.; Maui Coastal Land Trust/Waihee Dunes Preserve, Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project; Maui Land and Pineapple Company (Puu Kukui Preserve); Ulupalakua Ranch; Wailuku Water Company; Maui Tropical Plantation; and Pacific Helicopters, Windward Aviation; and other agencies and individuals to accomplish its goals.

Additional Information

The Plant Extinction Prevention Program serves a unique role in Hawaii, serving as the implementation arm of the Hawaii Rare Plant Restoration Group. It is a program dedicated to implementing the “Interim Criteria” identified in federally listed species’ recovery plans as well as the endangered plant protection actions outlined in the State of Hawaii’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (October 2005) for their respective islands. To carry out PEP’s mission, the island coordinators collaborate with a wide variety of agencies, organizations, and private landowners and because of its productive relationships, the staff is able to secure the protection of entire species that are distributed across different landownership boundaries. These good-faith collaborations and partnerships have resulted in substantial protection to entire endangered plant species that would otherwise not have been possible without the Program’s island-wide and statewide approaches.

The PEP program’s progress in the conservation of critically endangered plants has been highlighted in newspaper press: Honolulu Weekly, April 2008. Cover Story.

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