• Halema`uma`u Just Before Dawn

    Hawai'i Volcanoes

    National Park Hawai'i

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  • April 16, 2014 - Mauna Loa Update

    The recent wind advisory has been lifted and Mauna Loa has reopened for backcountry hiking and camping at Red Hill and the Summit.  However, More »

Nature & Science

Kahuku fog
The Kahuku Unit of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is a former cattle ranch dating back to the mid 1800's. Note the effects the cattle have had on the native trees. These trees evolved here over thousands of years with no hoofed animals trampling on their root systems.
NPS Photo
 
 

Nature and Science Overview

Well-known for its volcanic significance, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park is also one of the most fascinating biologic landscapes in the world. Located more than 2,000 miles from the nearest continental land mass, the Hawaiian Archipelago is the most geographically isolated group of islands on Earth. The Park sits on the southeastern edge of the youngest and largest island at a latitude of 19°N. Stretching from the summit of Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet to sea level, the Park protects a wide diversity of ecosystems and habitat for numerous native Hawaiian species such as carnivorous caterpillars, happy face spiders and colorful Hawaiian honeycreepers.

Hawaiian plants and animals began to evolve over 70 million years ago in nearly complete isolation and over 90% of the native terrestrial flora and fauna in Hawai`i are found only in the Hawaiian islands. This level of endemism surpasses all other places on Earth— even the Galapagos Islands. Consequently, the Park is a fantastic laboratory for the study of biogeography and evolution within the Pacific Islands.

Despite their protected status, the Park's treasure trove of species faces decimating threats. Declining habitat outside Park boundaries, invasive plants, bird malaria, wildfires, feral cats and pigs, and introduced goats, sheep, rats, mongoose, ants, and wasps are all taking a toll. To protect and restore Park ecosystems and protect cultural resources, the Division of Resources Management is dedicated to the following goals:

1. Remove alien invasive species with the primary focus on highly disruptive weeds and introduced ungulates such as sheep, goats, and pigs.

2. Restore highly altered Park ecosystems to conditions as natural as practical through extensive plantings of seedlings.

3. Restore lost biodiversity in Park ecosystems by recovering endangered, threatened, and rare species and reintroducing locally extirpated species.

4. Develop a systematic, science-based program of inventory and monitoring to better understand ecosystem populations, communities, threats, stresses, and health.

5. Maintain and expand Park partnerships with neighbors for natural and cultural resource protection to target invasive species threatening parklands.

6. Focus on recovery for four endangered species; the nene, Hawaiian petrel, hawksbill turtle and Mauna Loa silversword as flagship programs for the Park with continued monitoring of all rare and threatened plant and animal species.

Learn more about Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park’s natural resource management programs and their resources by visiting the navigation links on the left side of the page.

Did You Know?

`Ohi`a tree with lehua blossoms.

The `ohi`a lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) is a pioneer plant on new lava and a dominant tree in most mature Hawaiian forests. Honeycreepers, like the `apapane and `amakihi, are often seen sipping sweet nectar from its flowers. More...