PEP Annual Report – FY 2010

Plant Extinction Prevention (PEP) Program

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. To attain this goal, the PEP Program has adopted seven basic program objectives; the first five reflect field objectives and the last two reflect administrative objectives. For simplicity, PEP taxa, which include recognized distinct varieties and subspecies and forms, will be referred generally as PEP species throughout this report.

Objective 1. Collect propagules: 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 is a major part of our program this fiscal year because of the large number of species (200) that warrant “PEP” 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 we are 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 collected propagules from 103 rare plant species and placed them in ex situ protection, which is a 14% increase from last year (89 in FY09). Of these, 74 were PEP species. While PEP species are of highest priority, staff may also collect propagules from other rare plant populations in close proximity to populations of PEP species, as time permits.

A notable collection was the collection of fruit from of one of the three Cyanea procera plants on Molokai that produced mature fruit for the first time; the fruit from this tree had aborted previously and did not contain viable seed. One of the other plants in this population had previously fruited but it has not flowered or fruited in the past 4 years so there was a growing concern. This population will be monitored and if the two mature individuals produce flower at the same time, hand pollinating the flowers will be an important action.

In FY10, the Hawaii PEP Coordinator expanded his repertoire of collection techniques to include air-layering. He is working closely with the horticulturist of the Volcano Rare Plant Facility and has successfully tested the technique on more common species. As a result, he has demonstrated trememdous results and has placed genetic representation of over 80% of all known Melicope zuhlbruckneri plants in ex situ protection. Traditional seed collection and propagation had been dismal at best so this seems to be the most viable option to recover this species. The Hawaii PEP Coordinator has expanded air-layering to four other PEP species and preliminary results are promising.

Additionally, PEP staff has expanded collections to include soil from around the site of expired PEP plants in the hopes of capturing some of the seed bank. The soil from around Schiedea jacobii on Maui and Tetramolopium remyi on Lanai have been collected and taken to the Olinda Rare Plant Facility where the horticulturist has successfully sprouted seedlings of Schiedea jacobii from the collected soil. We are hopeful that this will be an additional tool in our arsenal to prevent the extinction of species.

Objective 2. Monitor populations: Monitor wild populations of target PEP species.

In FY 2010, the PEP Program monitored populations of 150 critically rare plant species, of which 109 are PEP species, an increase of 21% since FY09. Monitoring populations revealed there was a loss of plants of 15 PEP species on Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui, and Lanai due to myriad threats. Notable declines include:

  1. Cyanea maritae – The entire population of three individuals were killed by rats and/or slugs as scraps of leaves were found. One of the plants was fully mature and fortunately, collections were made from this individual.
  2. Cyanea shipmanii – Loss of 3 plants and discovery of 1 plant on Hawaii Island, resulting in a total of only 2 wild individuals of the species.
  3. Delissea kauaiensis – Loss of the single plant in the Haupuu population. Now, only 11 plants remain.

Objective 3. Survey sites: 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. This fiscal year, island PEP Coordinators conducted surveys specifically to look for additional populations. For example, surveys on Kauai was conducted for 10 species, 3 species on Oahu, 8 on Molokai, 14 on Maui, 4 on Lanai, and 12 on Hawaii Island. Surveys of this type have resulted in the discovery of additional plants of 27 PEP species. Noteworthy discoveries include:

  1. Astelia waialealae – Discovery of 1 previously unknown plant in Sincock Bog on Kauai, increasing the number of known plants to 19.
  2. Phyllostegia hispida – 1 mature plant was discovered in TNC’s Kamakou Preserve on Molokai at the bottom on a landslide, raising the number of known wild plants to 31. Seedlings were also found on the outskirts of the landslide but were not counted in the total.
  3. Solanum sandwicense – 1 of the 4 plants in the Kumuwela Road population on Kauai had died but 2 plants were discovered in the vicinity, increasing the number of known individuals of the species to 19.

Additional surveys are generally conducted at and around already-known populations and many new individuals of that population have been found this way and depended greatly on the proximity of plants, terrain, weather, and other variables.

Objective 4. Mitigate threats: Mitigate threats to naturally occurring PEP founders, 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 that were encountered were invasive non-native plants (i.e., weeds), rats, slugs, ungulates, erosion, 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 46 PEP species and 10 non-PEP species through weed control, rat control, ungulate control or exclusion, and slug exclusion.

Feral ungulates: Feral ungulates poses serious threats to PEP founders that remain in the wild through direct browsing, trampling, girdling or digging up of plants and indirectly though the introduction of invasive plants and diseases. Island PEP coordinators have documented evidence of feral cattle, mouflon sheep, goats, and pig damage to the habitat and to individual plants and populations of PEP species. Ungulate exclusion is one method of protection and entails the construction of large exclosures to preserve habitat for the long-term and smaller exclosures around individual or groups of plants to address imminent and immediate threats for the short-term. Feral ungulate threat management was conducted for 19 PEP species in FY10 involved identifying possible fence sites, clearing fence routes, constructing the fence, and maintaining existing fences. On Kauai, a small fence was installed around the one of the two Diellia erecta f. alexandri in March 2010.

Invasive alien plants: Invasive alien plant (i.e., weed) control generally entailed manual or chemical removal of pest plants such as Clidemia hirta (Koster’s curse), Psidium cattleianum (Strawberry guava), Rubus rosifolius (thimbleberry), Sphaeropteris cooperi (Australian tree fern), Hedychium gardnerianum (kahili ginger) and many other invasive species specifically to protect populations of 31 PEP species. While hiking to sites, the coordinators survey for incipient populations of invasive weeds and any new occurrences are reported to the watershed partnerships and invasive species committees on their respective islands.

Rats: Although rat predation is a severe threat to remote populations of PEP species, we did not implement rodenticide treatments because of the financial commitment that is needed for a large-scale rat baiting program, which is a condition of the pesticide label. At this time, two island coordinators hold Restricted Pesticide Applicators licenses should aerial application of rodenticides be approved in the near future. Despite this setback, island coordinators implemented rat trapping using snap traps to protect 9 PEP species.

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

Reintroduction of plants back into the wild to establish new populations is an integral part of the stabilization and recovery of PEP species and was carried out by each of the five island coordinators in FY10. Plants of 24 PEP species were reintroduced to their natural habitat through outplanting in FY10. Notably, 45 plants of Phyllostegia waimeae were outplanted in within a fenced exclosure in Kawaiiki on Kauai and is the first outplanting project conducted by the KPEP Program. One hundred-four Gardenia brighamii plants were reintroducted to fenced units on Lanai, 99 Plantago princeps var. laxifolia were outplanted on Maui, and 5 plants of Tetraplasandra lydgatei were reintroduced to protected sites on Oahu.

Objective 6. Prioritization of targets. 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 annual and informal meetings with island plant experts to update PEP population information and solicit advice on PEP priorities.

This fiscal year, the PEP Program and partners have significantly revised the PEP list based on current population information. The number of PEP species increased to 200 in FY10 from 173 in FY09. This reflects the addition of species that are “possibly extinct” (22), extinct in the wild (6), species that had reduced numbers (6) and deletion of species that are known to be less rare (7). Assessment of over 98% of the 458 taxa has already been made and the PEP list will be updated with any new information, as needed. The new PEP designations are provided below.

PEP Designations

Acronym

Definition

PEP

Plant Extinction Prevention; Taxa that have fewer than 50 individuals in the wild

PEP-EXTINCT IN WILD

Plant Extinction Prevention-Extinct in the wild; Last known plant died within past 20 years

PEP- EXTINCT?

Plant Extinction Prevention-Possibly extinct; Taxon not seen for over 20 years, habitat remains, some hope of discovery remains (refers to entire species)

POP

POtentially PEP; Taxa that have more than 50 but extremely vulnerable

ROI

Rare OIsland; Taxa that occur on other islands but are rare on a particular island (<50)

EXTIRPATED?

Possibly extirpated; Taxon not seen for over 20 years; habitat remains, some hope of discovery remains (refers to island-level extirpations)

EXTIRPATED

Not located despite extensive searches, very little hope of discovery remains (refers to island-level extirpations)

EXTINCT

Not located despite extensive searches, very little hope of discovery remains

AS

Apparently Secure

The PEP Program utilizes the new species ranking criteria that had been adopted in 2009 to prioritize the PEP species we work on. The Maui Nui PEP Coordinator and Oahu PEP Coordinator are in the process of revising the former PEP Ranking Criteria to the new one with smaller groups of HRPRG members. The third Hawaii Island HRPRG meeting was scheduled for August 2010 but had to be cancelled because of a staff injury but will be completed by December 2010. The annual Kauai HRPRG meeting was scheduled for the summer of 2010 but is in the process of being rescheduled and is expected to be completed by Decenber 2010. All five coordinators have held informal meetings with other rare plant experts throughout the year to update population numbers of PEP species under their jurisdiction.

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

This is the first year that the PEP Program has been fully staffed on five islands and this has resulted in unprecedented progress in preventing the extinction of PEP species. Compared to FY09, the number of PEP species protected rose from 103 to 116, a 13% increase. The PEP Program received funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and will be hiring full-time PEP Technicians for the Maui Nui Islands and Hawaii Island and part-time PEP technicians on Oahu and Molokai in FY11.

In FY10, the PEP Program actively worked with the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit’s (PCSU’s) new Safety Officer to address the concerns of the Research Cooporation of the University of Hawaii (RCUH) regarding vertical rapelling and reverse the moratorium that had been placed on our program over 2 years ago. The PEP Program will begin training staff and technicians to carry out vertical rappelling with the approval of PCSU and RCUH in FY11.

In FY10, the PEP Program’s Kauai, Oahu, Maui Nui, and Molokai core monitoring data was entered into the Statewide Rare Plant Database, with a backlog of data to be entered within the next two years. The Hawaii Island data entry was not completed in FY10 as expected but data entry is expected to begin with the hiring of the assistant for the Hawaii Island Coordinator. The Statewide PEP Coordinator is expected to continue in FY11 to work with the Hawaii Biodiversity Mapping Program and Pacific Basin Information Node to further hone the statewide rare plant database to meet the needs of all potential users.

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 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 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, 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.

Publications/Reports

A press release highlighting the activities of the PEP Program was developed on April 12, 2010. This press release resulted in a Hawaii Public Radio spot featuring the Statewide PEP Coordinator and KHON Channel 2 evening and morning news featuring the State Botanist (Division of Forestry and Wildlife) and the Oahu PEP Coordinator. The radio spot and video of the news spot can be heard and viewed at the PEP website. A copy of the press release can be found here.

The Oahu PEP Coordinator assisted the Oahu Army Natural Resources with a chapter on Army’s recovery work that is soon to be published by the Center for Plant Conservation.

Monthly internal reports are prepared by each island coordinator to report on progress on program objectives. Final grant reports to additional funding sources were prepared for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Watershed Partnership Grant Programs, Fish and Wildlife Service’s Preventing Extinction Initiative and Recovery Grants, and Hawaii Endangered Species Act Community Conservation Initiative Grant.

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, 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 Maui Nui PEP Coordinator provided substantial assistance to the Fish and Wildlife Service and to review and provide information for 5-Year Reviews and listing packages for 28 PEP species.

One of the outreach goals of the PEP Program is to use the PEP Program as a model that can applied to other island conservation program. From August 9 through 13, 2010, the Plant Extinction Prevention Program hosted a weeklong PEP Program training for the Guam Department of Agriculture Forester and Horticulturist at the University of Guam. It involved classroom lectures, site visits to view outplanting projects and cooperating nurseries, and one outplanting project. This project was funded by the joint multistate USDA Forest Service State Private Forestry Grant that the Hawaii State DOFAW and Guam Forestry offices successfully obtained in the 2nd quarter of FY10.

In FY10, the Statewide PEP Coordinator assisted the Hawaii State Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) to develop several outreach materials including a 2-page draft brochure about the Plant Extinction Prevention (PEP) Program, a poster featuring species being protected through the Plant Extinction Prevention Program, and a series of informational notecards featuring PEP species and their importance in Hawaiian forests. A limited run revision of the poster is expected by December 2010. An informational 2-panel desktop display about the PEP Program was presented by the Hawaii Conservation Alliance on behalf of the PEP Program at the Hawaiian Endangered Species Day at the Honolulu Zoo on Oahu on May 22, 2010, reaching thousands of residents and tourists visiting Waikiki. The Oahu PEP Coordinator gave a presentation at the Hawaiian Botanical Society meeting in September 2009 and the Maui Nui PEP Coordinator gave a public talk on “Lanai’s Endangered Flora” at the Hale Kupuna Community Hall on July 21, 2010. The PEP Program website featuring articles written by PEP staff and a review of some of the activities conducted within FY10 is being updated.

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