Baseline survey for rare plant species and native plant communities within the Kamehameha schools' Lupea Safe Harbor Planning Project Area, North Kona District, Island of Hawai`i.















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Kamehameha Schools, in conjunction with several federal, state, and private organizations, has proposed to conduct conservation management on approximately 5,340 ha (~13,200 acres) of land they own in the vicinity of Kīpukalupea in the North Kona District on the island of Hawai`i. The goal of this program is to restore and enhance the habitat to benefit native plant and animal populations that are currently, or were formerly, found in this site. The initial phase of this project has been focused on various activities including conducting baseline surveys for bird and plant species so Kamehameha Schools could develop a Safe Harbor Agreement (SHA) for the proposed project lands relative to the habitat management and species reintroduction efforts they would like to conduct in the Lupea Project area. This report summarizes methods that were used to collect field data on plant species and communities within the project area, and the results of that initial survey. The information was used to calculate baseline values for all listed threatened or endangered plant species found, or expected to be found, within the project area, and to design a monitoring program to assess changes in plant communities and rare plant species relative to management activities over the duration of the SHA. The Lupea Project area contains excellent examples of several high elevation native plant communities including montane dry forest and woodland, native subalpine shrubland, and native grassland. Between November 2003 and January 2004 we sampled plant communities and species along seven transects established through the project area. A total of 109 plant species were found during this survey, within the transect grid and in nearby areas. Forty-four of these plants are endemic species, 21 are indigenous species, 43 are introduced, and one species is believed to have been introduced to Hawai`i by early Polynesian settlers. Only one federally listed Endangered plant, Asplenium peruvianum var. insulare, was found within the survey area. Additionally, we found one immature plant that may be Sicyos macrophyllus, a candidate species for listing.However, we were not able to make a definite determination of this species‟ identity since it did not have fruits or flowers. Finally, we documented four plant species within the survey area that have no official status designation but are considered to be rare and informally recognized as “species of concern” (SOC) as they appear to be declining in distribution and abundance statewide. These included Chamaesyce olowaluana, viii Eragrostis deflexa, Sisyrinchium acre, and Tetramolopium consanguineum. In addition to conducting field surveys, we performed a query on a spatial database developed by Dr. Jonathan Price of the University of Hawai`i at Hilo which models the potential range of all native Hawaiian plant species based on historic observations and a set of environmental parameters. The potential species list for the Lupea Project area includes 47 taxa that we did not find during our surveys, as well as three other listed species that were not modeled by Price, but known from historic records in adjacent habitats. Some of these species are extremely rare or, in some cases have been locally extirpated. However, most of the plants that were predicted but not found during our surveys are expected to be located with additional searching, or may potentially recolonize the area following the elimination of ungulates and initiation of other restoration efforts. Forty-four introduced plant species were found within the survey area, seven of which are considered to be highly invasive. These include the grasses Pennisetum clandestinum and Pennisetum setaceum, vines Delairea odorata and Passiflora tarminiana, herbs Senecio madagascariensis and Verbascum thapsus, and the shrub Rubus niveus. Non-zero baseline values are proposed for the one listed plant species found within the Lupea Project area, one species that is a candidate for listing, and the four other rare species we found that may be considered for listing in the future. Additionally, a zero baseline is proposed for 23 other species that were predicted, but not found within the project area. These include 14 Endangered species, one Threatened species, two candidates for listing, and six species of concern. Subsequent monitoring of the site will be necessary to determine if the populations of these species have increased or decreased relative to their baseline values. It is presumed that the management activities Kamehameha Schools has proposed for this area, particularly removal of the ungulates and weed control, will provide a benefit to the habitat as a whole and allow for natural regeneration and maintenance of the all elements of the plant communities found there.







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