The first step was to clear our plots of invasive species- this took us nearly a year to accomplish! The next, and very exciting, step was planting! But how did we choose what species to plant? We used a system based on plant species’ functional traits, a series of measurements that can give you an idea of a species’ functional role within a given environment. For example, data from leaf chemistry and wood density can tell you what sort of strategy (on the “live fast, die young” – “grow conservatively and slowly” spectrum) a species uses. We also collected data on seed mass (to get an idea of reproductive output/costs/dispersal), light use and water use, etc… In total we looked at 15 traits for nearly 40 species of native and exotic species.

Liko Na Pilina hybrid ecosystems project now collects data from 20 plots within the Kilauea Military Reserve degraded forest area. Of these 20 plots, 4 separate treatments and 1 control are tested in 4 separate locations. Each cycle, Liko Na Pilina staff and volunteers to collect data and analyze plot treatments and forest development. Some of these processes include:

Soil Decomposition

Separating out leaf litter fall by species, litter is buried in mesh containers and left to decompose for 6 months, then retrieved and analyzed by observing the level of decomposition. Larger leaf pieces are picked out of each sample (measured roughly in quadrants and by existing species tag numbers) and finer samples are burned away to analyze leftover material. When organic material is burned off, remaining minerals can be weighed to help determine decomposition levels of specific species and treatments.

Resin Experimentation

Nutrient absorbing beads (primarily measuring nitrogen and phosphorous) are placed inside of mesh pouches and buried in quadrants and by specifically selected out-plant species. These are left under heavy tropical rains for a set period of time where soil nutrient levels are collected and processed later in laboratories. Prior to deployment, bags are constructed and processing material are sanitized through acid washing. Levels of nutrients collected by each sample bag provide information about differing levels of soil nutrients in each quadrant and plot area, to compare plot treatments to controls.

Seed and Leaf Litter Collections

Liko Na Pilina crew and volunteers collect leaf and seed fall samples from each plot monthly, these are processed by weight and species. We measure differences in quantity of litter and seed fall from each species compared with plot treatments. Seeds from native and outplant species are measured over the long term. This contributes to long term plot treatment analysis.

Seeding Studies

Every cycle, native seedling growth is measured within meter by meter areas in each treatment and control plot. We count seedings of all known native and endemic plant species found within each plot, and compare these against different treatments.

Other experiments at KMR:

Pilina crew also assists with a guava thrip biocontrol study, light measurement studies, and phrenology among other collaborative projects.