top of page

Ecosystem Restoration

on Your Homestead

Part of "Pastures & Forests"


     "The forests, as the home of the akua, were seen as awesome and profoundly spiritual places. One did not enter them, or take from them, without first asking permission, and respectful behavior was always shown to all of the beings that lived there."

   -Puanani O. Anderson-Fung, ethnobotanist

Centuries of invasive plants, grazing by goats, cows and pigs, development and vulnerabilities resulting in ecosystem imbalance and over-gathering have led to degradation of Hawaiian forests, its wildlife and its native flora. 

Non-native species can have negative impacts on our native forests' ability to regenerate. For example, shallow rooted trees can take up surface waters threatening our island's ability to recharge ground water. Non-native flowers can proliferate and overtake more fragile local, endemic species. Fast growing trees introduced for commercial reasons or inadvertently brought on-island can shade out other native tree species in the forest understory.

To help restore degraded forest environments, many Hawaiians and conservationists are now working together to create awareness about the serious, irreparable damage that is done to native Hawaiian ecosystems when we continue treating them as “inexhaustible free resources.” 

Ho`i ka po`ai i ka piko. 

(The circle returns to where it began.)


There is an emerging appreciation for restoring forests in ways that preserve native ecosystems while also preserving Hawaiian cultural practice and heritage.  

This is happening in many ways.

For example:


  • Culturally important trees such as the Hawaiian koa are being planted by community groups to reforest upland areas, both as a community education and conservation effort.  

  • Lei makers are now growing the flowers they need to help minimize gathering pressure on wild-growing flowers.

  • Kalo farmers are advocating for the return of natural streams and river flows so that their waters can once again feed the lo‘i for taro cultivation.

  • New nurseries led by native Hawaiian growers are trying to meet the growing demand for native plants.

  • Visitors and local hikers in Hawaii are being instructed to take precautions to prevent the spread of contagions that threaten native plants such as the beloved Hawaiian ō‘hia tree.

In this final segment of The Kuleana Curriculum, you will learn about several efforts by Hawaiian communities and growers who are restoring native ecosystems as their kuleana.


You will also learn about Hawai‘i's efforts at saving the culturally important ō‘hia tree.


Also in this segment are links to a comprehensive interactive database of Hawaii's native plants, complete with their Hawaiian names, photos, habitat and growing conditions.

Useful Links:
Screenshot 2020-10-22 at 1.52.07 AM.png

Learn about this 100-acre native Hawaiian reforestation project called Ola Koa.

Screenshot 2020-10-22 at 1.49.02 PM.png

Page 9 of this backyard conservation guide has a great list of native plants, their optimal habitats and growing conditions. From UH Mānoa CTAHR and Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Screenshot 2020-10-29 at 12.26.20 PM.png

Learn about the cultural and environmental significance of ʻōhiʻa trees, the quickly spreading Rapid ʻOhiʻa Death (ROD) disease, and steps that restorers and others can take to met the challenge.  

Screenshot 2020-11-14 at 5.54.53 PM.png

This Q&A list helps you to identify and prevent Rapid O‘hia Death. For hikers, campers and land managers from UH Mānoa's CTAHR.

Screenshot 2020-10-29 at 12.11.36 PM.png

Rare plant specialist Mike DeMotta describes the inseparable bond between native plants and Hawaiian culture. A must-see for aspiring ecosystem restorers.

Screenshot 2020-10-29 at 12.28.33 AM.png

At Limahuli Nature Preserve on Kaua‘i some of the rarest plants in Hawai‘i are being protected for future generations. Past Director Kawika Winter shows us some of them.

Screenshot 2020-11-14 at 5.54.53 PM.png

Explore this comprehensive database of Hawaiian plants from the Bishop Museum. Learn the Hawaiian name, Latin species name and growing habit of many  endemic plants.

> Or Go Back to Course 7: Pastures & Forests

bottom of page