Drought and wildfire at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

During the 2002–2003 drought, relative humidity values dropped into the single digits, and wildfire spread into “safe areas” of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, including wet forests, with tree ferns (Cibotium menziesii) and uluhe ferns (Dicranopteris linearis) as the main carriers. Despite dozens of firefighters, miles of fuel breaks, and helicopter water drops, the fire spread into the East Rift Special Ecological Area, burning important habitat and damaging the ungulate proof fence. Immediate action was required to replace the fence and prevent pig ingress to the area. This series of fires also impacted the lower elevation wet/ mesic forest, with sword fern (Nephrolepis multifora) as the main carrier. Post-fire restoration work included monitoring along with seeding and planting fire-tolerant native species. Years of lab and field trials (Loh et al. 2009) were conducted to determine which species are fire-tolerant and then to collect and bank seeds from those species (McDaniel et al. 2008). Future projects will re-survey the plots to examine longer term changes in community composition.

To learn more, read the report by Frazier et al.

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