The beautiful yet isolated Hawaiian islands hold a bounty of biodiversity, but many of those unique species are rapidly disappearing. The fast growth of invasive species is pushing native Hawaiian species, many of which are found nowhere else on the globe, into extinction. In fact, hundreds of Hawaiian plant species, along with dozens of mammals and insects and other species, already appear on the U.S. endangered species list.
Much of the landscape of Hawaii, especially lowlands near agriculture and cities, has already been transformed, with native species nowhere to be found.
“Invasive species are so prevalent. You’re hand weeding, trying to eliminate them and aren’t able to keep up with them. It feels like you’re fighting a losing battle,” Susan Cordell, research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, said recently in a prepared statement. “Restoring these lowland tropical forests to a historic native state is not financially or physically feasible.”
Invasive species are non-native species that disperse widely, rapidly, and at the expense of native species in an ecosystem. Not all non-native species become invasive, but those that do pose serious threats to all manner of plants, insects and animals.
So how can Hawaii preserve its biodiversity in the face of this ever-expanding enemy? A new idea is to try developing “hybrid ecosystems” – native and non-native species mixed in a way that benefits native biodiversity.