Monday, August 25, 2008

Native species

The Nene is Hawaii's state bird and is classified as endangered. It is the only goose left that is endemic to Hawaii.

This image below is of a young Silversword. It is found on Haleakala, Maui and grows nowhere else in the world. It matures after 10 years...blooms and then dies. This plant is threatened, but there is conservation in place to protect it.

Here's an image of a mature plant that I found on Google images...since I didn't see a Silver sword in bloom while on the volcano. They are very tall...about 4 feet or so.

I am fascinated by ecosystems, so Maui was a dream come true for me. Hawaii's native ecosystems were formed in isolation...hundreds of thousands of years ago. Lifeforms arrived by sea, air current or birds. Land mammals were not part of the original systems. As plants and animals arrived, they adapted to the environment. Defense mechanisms like spines, thorns, poisons etc...were not necessary and they were lost.

The native species were very vulnerable to the impact of alien species transported by humans.

As a result, many species are extinct. I found myself wondering how this paradise must have looked to the early native Hawaiian people. It looks pretty amazing it must have been beyond magnificent.

Maui still has a big concern over alien species. I read a sign that stated that 20 new species are brought to the island each year by humans. (sometimes accidentally hitching a ride on shoes) Some of these plants and animals can be very destructive.

This is so sad. There are some plants and birds here that are found no where else in the world.

One of the things I noticed about Maui is that there were tons of birds, but very few other animals. One animal we did see was the mongoose. The mongoose was introduced to control rats. However, the habits of the two animals make it such that they never cross paths. Now the mongoose is a huge problem because it doesn't have a predator and it eats bird eggs.
We also saw a few feral cats, and a few lizards.

This three horned lizard was introduced by a pet store owner who released the lizards into the wild.

Surprisingly, we did not see a lot of bugs. However, on our trip along the famous road to Hana, we met up with a few mosquitoes...more on that later.

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