PEP Annual Report – FY 2007

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;
  6. Gather population information and prioritize PEP species through input from experts, partners, and other cooperators; and
  7. Provide administrative and partner support to conduct objectives 1-6.

Each island’s focus on these 7 objectives is a reflection of how long the program has been in existence. At present, Oahu PEP Program is three years old and is the most mature of the island programs and is engaged in all 7 objectives. The Maui Nui Program, which is two years old, focused on objectives 1 through 4. The Hawaii Island Program, which began in May 2007, is focused on the first objective. The Kauai PEP Program is presently in its second round of advertisement for its Coordinator and a new hire is expected in the second quarter of FY 08. More specific objectives for each species are explicitly stated in each of the species accounts below, for each island program.

Performance

Recovery actions were implemented for 97 critically rare plant taxa in FY 07. These recovery actions are described in Objectives 1-7, below.

Objective 1. Collect genetic material (fruit, cuttings, meristematic tissue 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.

Because of the severe decline of the species that has warranted its PEP status, this objective was a major part of PEP’s program this fiscal year. 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 safekeeping measure places the collections in ex situ propagation and live plant storage, tissue culture, or seed storage, where PEP 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 63 plant taxa and placed them in ex situ protection. More specifically, Oahu PEP Program made collections for 18 plant taxa. The Maui Program collected propagules from 39 plant taxa, and in the two months the Hawaii Island Program has been in operation, it has collected propagules from 6 species. 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 FY07, the PEP Program monitored populations of 87 critically rare plant species that are PEP targets.

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 12 species on Oahu, 47 for Maui Nui, and 1 on Hawaii Island (60 total) this fiscal year. Surveys of this type have resulted in the discovery of additional plants of 31 PEP species, many 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 so that 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 26 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. Rat control involved application of rat poison bait blocks, according to label, and following state and federal law. Coordinators who apply the bait hold Restricted Pesticide Applicators licenses. Ungulate control involved hunting, especially for pig and axis deer. Ungulate exclusion entailed the construction large exclosures to preserve habitat for long-term protection, 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, most of the outplanting took place on Oahu, focusing in the Koolau regions where partnership programs to protect PEP species are now in place. The Oahu PEP Coordinator worked closely with private landowners to outplant nine species in fenced sites that are regularly managed by PEP Coordinators and private landowners. Additional outplantings are planned for FY08. This fiscal year, the Maui Nui PEP Coordinator coordinated the outplanting of five PEP species in protected areas in Maui Nui. All of the outplantings were coordinated with various landowners as well as the rare plant facilities that grew out the plants, following strict sanitation guidelines.

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. For example, on March 2, a meeting was held on Hawaii Island with members of the Hawaii Rare Plant Restoration Group, Hawaii Island botanists, and experts 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 08.

Recent information gathered through surveys by PEP Coordinators 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 10 PEP targets to a lower priority. These species will continue to be evaluated and placed back on the PEP list, as appropriate.

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

Significant progress was made in FY 07 with the addition of two full-time staff: the Statewide PEP Coordinator on 3/1/07 and a Hawaii Island Coordinator on 5/2/07. The Statewide PEP Coordinator’s primary responsibilities involve fundraising, managing staff, public relations, and working closely with partners to develop agreements. The Hawaii Island PEP Coordinator implements the island’s field objectives much like the other island coordinators. At present, PEP is placing the second round of advertisements for a Kauai PEP Coordinator and plan on hiring that coordinator in the first quarter of FY08. In FY07, the PEP Program had also upgraded the rare plant reporting system, made significant improvements to safety protocols, and have developed more concrete relationships with conservation partners to improve collaboration of PEP species on multiple islands.

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 Coordinators 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 Environmental, 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 (Hoolawa Farms, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Maui Nui Botanical Gardens); National Park Service (Hawaii Volcanoes NP and Haleakala NP, Kalaupapa NHP); Lyon Arboretum Micropropagation and Seed Storage facilities; Hawaii Biodiversity Mapping Program; 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 PreserveMaui Forest Bird Recovery Project; Maui Land and Pineapple Company (Puu Kukui Preserve); Ulupalakua Ranch; Wailuku Water Company; Maui Tropical Plantation; Pacific Helicopters, Windward Aviation; and other agencies and individuals to accomplish its goals.

Additional Information

The PEP program’s progress in the conservation of critically endangered plants has been highlighted in recent exposure in the media, in television, magazine, newspaper, and in online and hardcopy news releases:

Television

  • KHON, Channel 2 Evening News (March 20, 2007) and Morning News (March 21, 2007) featuring anchor Manolo Morales: “A program helps to save rare Hawaiian plants from disappearing permanently.”

Magazine

  • Honolulu Magazine, December 2006. “The plant seekers: Sometimes you’ve got to take a risk when saving a dying species,” by Sheila Sarhangi. p. 36.
  • Hana Hou!, February/March 2007. “The seed savers, a dedicated group of botanists and biologists hopes to rescue Hawai`i’s most endangered plants from oblivion,” by Dennis Hollier, 10(1), pp 74-84.

Newspaper

  • Maui Weekly, March 22-28, 2007. “Hawai`i’s rarest plants get a helping hand with PEP Program.” Article featuring Hank Oppenheimer (Maui Nui PEP Coordinator) and efforts on Maui.
  • Honolulu Weekly, May 9-15, 2007. Cover Story, “Petrified Forest: Scientists turn to the lab to save native plants from extinction.”
  • West Hawaii Today, March 7, 2007. “Saving plant species beings with the tiniest part,” by Carolyn Lucas.
  • Tribune Herald. [no date]. “Yoshioka heads plant extinction prevention effort.”

Newsletters

  • Kneubuhl, Hina. 2007 (Summer). “Cyanea grimesiana subsp. grimesiana returns to Niu Valley.” Na leo o ka aina, Hawaii’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife Newsletter, 3(1), p. 2.
  • Oppenheimer, Hank. 2007 (April). “Thought to be extinct!” Nature Newsflash, a quarterly publication of The Nature Conservancy, Molokai Program, p. 2.

News Releases

  • Pacific Islands External Affairs Office, March 2, 2007. “Hawai`i’s rarest plants get a helping hand.” 3pp.

Publications

  • Bishop Museum Occasional Papers (in press). New island records and other additions for Records of the Hawaii Biological Survey.

The PEP Program and its island coordinators have become recognized sources of information about critically rare plants in Hawaii for researchers and other plant experts. This fiscal year, PEP Coordinators worked closely with several researchers to provide information, assist them with permitted collections, and serve as resource people knowledgeable about plant distributions and locations.

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