Nature & Science
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.
However, the amount of human introduced, or alien, plants and animals in Hawai`i is staggering. Starting with the Polynesians, humans have imported hundreds of plants and animals to provide food, shelter, or clothing. Many tropical flowers and fruits, for which Hawai`i is so famous, are not native to this land. Many more species, like mosquitoes and rats, were accidentally introduced. The extensive loss of natural habitat throughout Hawai`i contributes to the ability of alien plants and animals to displace native species.
Did You Know?
On April 15, 1969, exactly 80 years after his death, a statue of Father Damien was unveiled in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol. An identical statue can also be found in front of Hawaii's State Capitol in Honolulu.