PEP Annual Report – FY 2009

Plant Extinction Prevention (PEP) Program

Performance

The goal of the Plant Extinction Prevention Program is to prevent the extinction of plants with fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild, referred as “PEP” species. This report summarizes the work the Plant Extinction Prevention Program conducted for PEP species as well as other critically rare species/taxa that may also be on the brink of extinction.

Objective 1. Fund FTE for Oahu, Maui Nui, Island of Hawaii, and Kauai

This fiscal year marks the first year that the Plant Extinction Prevention Program implemented conservation of PEP species on all main Hawaiian Islands. Full-time Plant Extinction Prevention coordinators led the work on Oahu, Maui Nui (Molokai, Maui, Lanai), and Hawaii Island and extended protection efforts to the island of Kauai with the hiring of the full-time Kauai Plant Extinction Prevention Coordinator in December 2008. A Molokai coordinator was also hired to lead the work on that island in December 2008 and the Oahu PEP coordinator position was back-filled in April 2009.

Objective 2. Provide helicopter support for Maui Nui, Oahu, and Island of Hawaii

Funds for helicopter transport allowed PEP Coordinators to access remote sites on Maui, Oahu, and Hawaii Island and contributed to the protection of 8 PEP species. Coordinators primarily used helicopter transportation to access remote populations and to transport fencing material and personnel to fence-construction sites.

Objective 3. Provide supplies and equipment needed for support of Island PEP programs

Fencing, weed control, and field supplies were purchased by all five island programs to support the conservation work discussed below.

The FY 2009 funding for the three objectives (listed above) allowed the Plant Extinction Prevention Coordinators to conduct conservation work for 42 of the 170 PEP species on 6 islands (Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui, Lanai, and Hawaii Island). The Program was able to protect, monitor, and survey a total of 105 PEP species in fiscal year 2009.

Specific Action #1: Protection from feral ungulates by erecting small fenced areas.

A total of 30 fencing projects were built this fiscal year. The establishment of 10 small fenced exclosures immediately around individual or groups of PEP plants addressed imminent and immediate threats. These small exclosures ranged in size from 10ft x 10 ft to 150 ft x 150 ft. These relatively small fences provide short-term mitigation from imminent browsing and damage by feral ungulates for 16 PEP species.

Specific Action #2: Protection from rats by baiting.

Actions to protect the plants from rats were implemented for 7 PEP species. Although rat depredation is a severe threat to remote populations of PEP species, rat control could not be implemented using approved rodenticide treatments because of the inadequacy of financial resources that are needed to institute a wide-scale rat baiting program. Such a program is not practical at this time. However, two coordinators hold Restricted Pesticide Applicators licenses, should aerial application of rodenticides be approved. Slugs, like rats, eat the leaves, fruit, and stems of PEP species. As a measure against slugs, copper sheeting was applied around the plants; the electrical field produced is known to repel slugs. In addition, fleshy fruits were regularly bagged in mesh bags to retard predation by slugs.

Specific Action #3: Weeding alien plant species.

Weed control generally entailed manual or chemical removal of pest plants such as Clidemia hirta, Psidium cattleianum, Rubus rosifolius, and other invasive species specifically to protect populations of 16 PEP species. While hiking to sites, the coordinators survey for incipient populations of invasive weeds. Any new occurrences are reported to the watershed partnerships and invasive species committees on their respective islands.

Specific Action #4: Monitoring population status of species.

Plant Extinction Prevention Program Coordinators monitored to a total of 90 PEP species, including an additional 42 critically rare plant species (132 total). Monitoring the status of PEP species revealed the decline of 8 species due to threats such as feral ungulates, slugs, rats, invasive plants, and landslides.

A large part of the Plant Extinction Program is to search for additional founder plants that can greatly increase the species’ chances of recovery and are considered high priority. Surveys conducted specifically to look for additional populations were conducted for 48 PEP species this fiscal year. Surveys of this type have resulted in the discovery of additional plants of 17 PEP species. 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.

Specific Action #5: Collection of propagules when appropriate.

The PEP Program completed collections from 58 PEP taxa and an additional 31 rare species for a total of 89 for this fiscal year. These propagules were placed in ex situ protection at cooperating rare plant seed storage, nursery, or micropropagation facilities. While the PEP species are of highest priority, the Coordinators often collect propagules from other rare plant populations in close proximity to populations of PEP species, as time permits.

Specific Action #5 was a major part of the Plant Extinction Prevention program this fiscal year because of the large number of critically rare PEP species (170) that are on the verge of extinction. 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 material is preserved should the populations continue to decline. This material can then be used for reintroduction programs geared toward the recovery of the species. Substantial amount of effort is invested to make a single collection as repeat visits to plants to ensure maturity of fruit or to a number of populations are often necessary before a collections can be made.

Specific Action #6: Outplant species when appropriate.

Outplanting is a part of the recovery of these species. This fiscal year, the Maui Nui program led in the number of species reintroduced to natural habitats with the outplanting of 6 rare plant species: Diellia erecta f. alexandri, Diplazium molokaiense, Phyllostegia hispida, P. mannii, Schiedea laui, Cyanea duvalliorum, and Scaevola coriacea. The Hawaii Island Program outplanted 4 species: Clermontia peleana subsp. peleana, Clermontia pyrularia, Argyroxiphium kauense, and Clermontia lindseyana. The Hawaii Island Program Coordinator also built a 225ft x150ft outplanting exclosure to house species such as Phyllostegia warshaueri, Sicyos macrophyllus, Cyanea platyphylla, and Cyrtandra tintinabula. An additional 6 outplanting units are planned with federal, state, and private landowners and construction for fiscal year 2010.

Specific Action #7: Organize agency actions, non-governmental organizations, and/or volunteers to accomplish above actions.

Because the Plant Extinction Prevention 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 duplication of effort.

This fiscal year, PEP staff worked closely with many conservation partners, landowners, and cooperators to accomplish its goals: 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 National Wildlife Refuge offices); The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii; US Army Natural Resources Division (Oahu, Hawaii Island), islands watershed partnerships (Koolau Mountains, East Moloka`i,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, Olinda Rare Plant Facility, 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 Facilities; Center for Conservation and Research Training’s Seed Storage Facility; 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; various private landowners; Pacific Helicopters, Windward Aviation; and other agencies and individuals.

Specific Action #8: Begin initial steps with Pacific Basin Information Node and Hawaii Biodiversity to develop information management systems.

The entry of the rare plant monitoring data collected by the Plant Extinction Prevention Program was the first step in developing the Statewide Rare Plant Database. In fiscal year 2009, the Oahu Program entered its rare species records into the statewide database, followed by Maui Nui in the fourth quarter. The Kauai and Hawaii Island data will follow in fiscal year 2010. The Plant Extinction Prevention Program also provided substantial assistance to the State Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Pacific Basin Information Node, and the Hawaii Biodiversity Mapping Program to develop the Statewide Rare Plant Database. Involvement is expected to continue through the next fiscal year as the Plant Extinction Prevention Program further hones the database to meet the needs of all potential users.

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 Plant Extinction Prevention Program’s mission, the island coordinators collaborate with a wide variety of agencies, organizations, and private landowners and because of its productive relationships, the PEP Coordinators are 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 Plant Extinction Prevention Program hosted a Rare Plant Symposium at the 2008 Hawaii Conservation Conference (July 28-31, 2008) that featured talks by botanical experts from the Harold L. Lyon Arboretum, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Army National Resources Division (Oahu), and the Plant Extinction Prevention Program.

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