Keau‘ohana Native Forest Reserve in the Puna District of Hawai‘i Island is the largest and most intact lowland wet forest remaining below 1,000 feet in elevation in the State of Hawai’i. This forest is a unique reservoir of rare native biodiversity, and is also the most optimal remaining critical habitat for the endangered ha‘iwale.
Since 2014, the Keau’ohana Forest Reserve has undergone an intensive restoration process that eliminated invasive species on >30 acres of the most bio-diverse portion of the reserve down-slope of Highway 130. Although mature invasive plants are currently eliminated from the area, there are of course numerous invasive species’ seedlings sprouting up which threaten the future of the forest. The Keau’ohana crew is currently undergoing the second pass of all >30 acres in order to eliminate re-growth before invasive species attain maturity. Being persistent at this juncture, will greatly diminish the seed bank and help perpetuate native regeneration.
Although weeding will always be needed to maintain Hawaii’s last remaining native rainforest, efforts will be progressively less intensive over time. Native species such as ‘ohe, a rare yet fast growing native canopy tree, has been out-planted in the restored area to fill open areas in need of shade. Natural regeneration of native species is also being supported by our efforts. Despite damages endured by hurricane Iselle and subsequent ohi’a loss due to Rapid Ohi’a Death (ROD), the Keau’ohana forest ecosystem is responding extremely well to restoration measures.
As the only example of intact lowland wet forest readily available to the public, the Keau’ohana forest has been providing an infrastructure for the further study of native lowland wet forests/species, and facilitating growing community outreach objectives to help educate Hawai‘i students, residents and visitors about native species, native forest composition and issues of invasion. Community enthusiasm for this project has resulted in well beyond 2,000 volunteer hours since it was launched in June of 2014. Efforts to help restore a small portion of this forest began as early as 2005 by Hilo community specialists who recognized its significance.
The project’s intensive restoration efforts have been supported by a State Grant (G-I-A) and the contracting agency [DLNR-DOFAW] through appropriations made by the Legislature of the State of Hawaii. County Contingency funds have also been awarded. Generous donations by community members such as Ann Kobsa, and community businesses such as Island Natural’s also greatly support this project. The project principal, Cindy Jaya Dupuis/MS, is MOP board member, resident permaculturist since 1989, and dedicated volunteer restoring native lowland wet forest for the past 10 years.
It is of utmost importance that efforts continue without delay in this tropical environment. We hope to secure funding for the maintenance of Keau’ohana for many years to come. If you cannot be present to help with restoration in the forest, please consider making a monetary donation to the Keau‘ohana Native Rainforest Restoration project. Mahalo Nui !
Project Coordinator: Jaya C. Dupuis