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Hawaiian High Islands Ecoregion
This page last revised 05 January 2009 -- S.M.Gon III

Conservation Targets
TNC Action Sites


Maps & Figures
CPT Database
Forest bird
Forest birds comprise a traditional conservation target in the Hawaiian ecoregion.

Hawaiian continuous perennial stream natural communityStream communities cut across ecological system boundaries and bear unique threats.

Functional landscapes
Native-dominated ecological systems comprise our primary conservation targets.

Hawaiian gallinule, an endangered waterbird
Waterbird concentrations represent special threats and management needs.

Coastal vegetation is highly vulnerable to human disturbance and global warming.

Conservation Targets

Establishingconservation targets

Anexplicit set of conservation targets was not developed in the 1998ecoregional plan. Part of the new standards compliance for ERA II was to determine the specificecological systems, natural communities, species, and special features thattogether represent the biodiversity of the ecoregion.  Following the principles outlined in Geography of Hope,we developed a set ofconservation targets. The vast majority of terrestrial and aquaticspecies andnatural communities are nested within 10 primary ecological systems, sothese systems became the primary building blocks of this 2nd iterationplan.


Ecological systems are suites ofecologically linked natural communities sharing similar biogeoclimaticconditions. They comprise broad, landscape-scale units definedby shared environmental conditions and ecological processes. Because ofthe huge ecological amplitude withinthe Hawaiian ecoregion, ten ecological systems were established asconservation targets: 

1.      Alpine system
2.      Subalpine system
3.      Montane dry system
4.      Montane mesic system
5.      Montane wet system
6.      Wet cliff system
7.      Lowland wet system
8.      Lowland mesic system
9.      Lowland dry system
10.  Dry cliff system


There is remarkable congruence between the distribution of most natural communities and the emergent ecological systems they comprise. For the majority of the 175 described native natural communities (see Tables),nesting within larger ecological systems is justified on the basis ofboth geospatial congruences, and common threats and management needs.

However,one freshwater natural community (Hawaiian Continuous Perennial StreamCommunity) was not fully embedded within nativeecological systems. Streams run across ecological system boundaries,extend through alien-dominated regions, and enter the marine system.They also bear a number of target-specific threats and managementneeds, and thus, warranted designation as a specific conservation target.

In 2008, the coastal ecosystem was assessed via a statewide mapping of Coastal Vegetation, and Anchialine Pool community occurrences. Their distributionacross the archipelago is shown in a separate coastal target tablebelow.

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Theremarkably high levels of endemism in the Hawaiian High IslandsEcoregion offers thousands of potential endemic species targets. Luckily, aswith natural communities, most individual species inHawai‘i nest readily within natural communities and ecologicalsystems, and are subject to the same set of threats and managementcontext. 

Thus, insteadof identifying individual species targets, we recognize that the great majority ofendemic species are nested in and constitute the natural communitiesand ecological systems which have been selected as conservation targets. The plan addressespatterns of species endemism across the archipelago by establishing stratification units reflecting these biogeographical patterns (see Goals). 

Most specieswere adequately covered by the focus on ecological systems. However,we felt that delineating threespecies concentrations would ensure assessment of biodiversitycomponents thatwere of particularly outstanding significance (i.e., forest birds), orwere not adequately nested within the native ecological systems.

Weselected concentrations of two major guilds of terrestrial Hawaiianbirds (forest birds and waterbirds) to acknowledge their significanceand special conservation needs.  Both groups have been welldocumented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S.Geological Service, Biological Resources Discipline (e.g., Camp et al, in prep). We also analyzedrare plantconcentrations across the archipelago and identified occurrences thatfell outside of native ecological system boundaries.

1. Forest bird concentration
2. Rare plant concentration
3. Waterbird concentration

These14 conservation targets became the basis for all subsequent steps intheterrestrial ecoregion planning process. Their distribution across the ecoregion wasdocumented (see summary table below). Once targets were identified andcharacterized across the ecoregion, assessments of viability wereconducted. 

In 2008, a fourth concentration, Sea bird nesting concentration,was added in the coastal assessment to the three terrestrialconcentration targets, and is shown in the coastal target table below. 

Summary table of conservation targets across the Hawaiian Ecoregion. Each blue cellindicates presence of the particular conservation target. Forexample, the Alpine System (ALP) is present only on the islands ofMaui and Hawai‘i, and in the conservation areas of EastMaui, Mauna Kea, Ka‘ū - Kapāpala, Kona, and Pōhakuloa -Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a. A low island, such as Kaho‘olawe(KAH)  only includes occurrences of Lowland Dry (LD) and Dry Cliff(DC) systems.

Conservation Targets
Key to abbreviations: SU =Stratification Unit; ES = Ecological System, NII = Ni‘ihau, KAU =Kaua‘i, OAH = O‘ahu, MOL = Moloka‘i, LAN = Lāna‘i, KAH =
Kaho‘olawe,MAU = Maui, HAW = Hawai‘i; Conservation Areas: NII = Ni‘ihau, KAU =Kaua‘i, WAI = Wai‘anae, KOO = Ko‘olau, EMO = East Moloka‘i, LAN = Lāna‘i, KAH = Kaho‘olawe, EMA = East Maui, WMA = West Maui, KOH = Kohala, MK = Mauna Kea, WML = Windward Mauna Loa, K-K = Ka‘ū - Kapāpala, KON = Kona, P-P = Pōhakuloa- Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a; Targets: ALP = Alpine System, SUB =Subalpine System, MD = Montane Dry System, MM = Montane Mesic System,MW = Montane Wet System, WC = Wet Cliff System, LW = Lowland WetSystem, LM = Lowland Mesic system, LD = Lowland Dry System, DC = DryCliff System; STRM = Hawaiian Continuous Perennial Stream Community,FBIRD = Forest Bird Concentration, PLANT = Rare Plant Concentration,WBIRD = Waterbird Concentration.
Summarytable of conservation targets selected in the 2008Coastal assessment, and their distribution across the Hawaiianarchipelago. This coastal assessment does not include the Northwestern HawaiianIslands, and does not recognize the same conservation areas as the1998 terrestrial assessment. 
Key to abbreviations: NII = Ni‘ihau, KAU =Kaua‘i, OAH = O‘ahu, MOL = Moloka‘i, LAN = Lāna‘i, KAH = Kaho‘olawe,MAU = Maui, HAW = Hawai‘i
Offshore islets are included with their nearest main island.