Volunteers work to restore Hakiowa Watershed on Kahoolawe

Volunteers removed invasive alien plant species in the project site and replaced them with native plantings.

The Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission recently completed a habitat restoration project aimed at restoring the Hakioawa Watershed on Kahoolawe. Decimated of its natural environment from over 100 years of overgrazing by goats, cattle and sheep, as well as nearly 50 years of live-fire training and bombing by the U.S. Navy, roughly 30 percent of the island is barren due to severe erosion.

The overreaching goal of the restoration project, funded by a grant from the Hawaii Department of Health, Clean Water Branch and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was to improve water quality in the Hakioawa Watershed by implementing management practices that would have positive effects from mauka to makai.

The restoration project began in August 2017 and was completed in February of 2019. In that time, the project engaged 150 volunteers who worked 3,000 hours in the Hakioawa Watershed in an effort to restore the native dryland forest ecosystem, as well as to reduce erosion, runoff and sedimentation into the ocean.

One of the management practices used to accomplish these efforts was the removal of invasive alien plant species in the project site and replacing them with native plantings. Over the last 20 years, the KIRC has used 40 different native plant species in the restoration of Kahoolawe’s fragile dryland ecosystem. Soil erosion-control devices, such as wattles and gabions, were also installed to help achieve the project goals.

The project site will continue to be monitored and evaluated to determine rates of plant survival and soil erosion. More information about the KIRC’s restoration efforts can be found at www.kahoolawe.hawaii.gov.