• View of the Kalaupapa Peninsula


    National Historical Park Hawai'i

Nature & Science

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Welcome to the Nature and Science page. This page will help you learn more about the flora and fauna of Kalaupapa and how the National Park Service works to protect and preserve these resources for future generations. Choose from the links below to access the latest science and multimedia on a wide range of topics concerning Kalaupapa National Historical Park.


Water Quality Assessment

Because water is the most valuable resource we have, water quality steers the protection and management of Kalaupapa National Historical Park's natural features. Read the complete 2010 water quality assessment here.


Flora and Fauna of Kalaupapa

It is amazing to consider how plants and animals arrived in Hawai`i, the most isolated major island chain in the world. Over millions of years following their formation by volcanoes, these islands, stretching over 1,500 miles, were slowly populated by plants and animals arriving over vast distances—blown by the wind or carried by the sea. Twenty four hundred miles from the nearest continent or island group, the Hawaiian Islands are known for their ecological diversity and endemic flora and fauna. Around 95 percent of native Hawaiian plants and animals are found no where else in the world, having evolved here on the islands following colonization by their ancestors.

Plants - Learn about the marine and terrestrial flora of Kalaupapa.

Animals - Learn about the marine and terrestrial wildlife of Kalaupapa.


Inventory and Monitoring at Kalaupapa

The Natural Resources Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Program provides an opportunity to improve the quantity, quality and availability of natural resources data for park managers and the public. It is a two-phase program. The first phase involves baseline inventory, or an extensive point-in-time effort to determine the location and condition of selected biologic resources. Inventory may involve both acquisition of new information and the compilation of existing information from disparate sources. The second phase is monitoring, or the collection and analyses of repeated observations over time to evaluate changes in the condition of a resource.

Visit the Inventory and Monitoring webpage to read studies, watch videos, and use interactive maps to learn about the latest science being done on Kalaupapa's plant communities, invasive plants and animals, coral reefs, marine fish, streams, water quality, and climate.


Geology of Kalaupapa

Surrounded on three sides by rough ocean waters and cut off from the rest of Molokai island by 1,600 foot cliffs, the Kalaupapa Peninsula has always been one of the most remote places in Hawai'i. These features made Kalaupapa an ideal location to isolate Hansen's disease patients. The formation of the peninsula itself took hundreds of thousands of years to occur, and did so through many episodes of volcanic and geologic activity.

Learn more about the geologic events that created Kalaupapa peninsula.


Coral Reef Program

Kalaupapa National Historical Park's (NHP) legislative boundary extends a quarter mile offshore, and includes three offshore islands. Coral reef communities are extensive in a few sheltered areas but primarily consist of scattered coral colonies on basalt boulder habitat. Sandy basins exist seaward of the drainages for the three principal watersheds within the park. Endemic Hawaiian limpets (opihi) can be found along the park's extensive basalt shorelines. There are significant issues associated with upland development, including sedimentation and other runoff-associated issues. Subsistence fishing is generally not considered a problem (except for opihi), but commercial fishing vessels have been observed operating within the park.

Learn more about the Kalaupapa marine environment through the following links:

Visit the webpage for the Hawaii-Pacific Islands Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit (HPI-CESU), a coalition of governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations and universities, promotes research, education and technical assistance to support better stewardship of imperiled natural and cultural resources within the Pacific.

Coral Reef Studies and Products - A bibliographic resource listing scientific studies on the Kalaupapa marine environment.

An Introduction to Kalaupapa Marine Environment (2001)



Did You Know?

Kauhako Crater

About 230,000 years ago a small shield volcano named Pu'u 'Uao formed the flat Kalaupapa peninsula. The rim of the volcano remnant rises 450 feet forming Kauhako Crater with a crater lake at the bottom more than 800 feet deep.