More than 400 native saplings were planted at the Maunakea Visitor Information Station to restore trees removed during a renovation project.
After a $1.53 million renovation project at the VIS in 2018, which expanded the station’s parking lot and added new entry and exit lanes, the Center for Maunakea Stewardship (formerly called the Office of Maunakea Management) resolved to plant at least two mamane trees at the site for every one tree that was removed for the project.
Since then, hundreds of mamane saplings — a species of flowering tree that grows exclusively in Hawaii — are growing in a plant restoration area immediately next to the VIS. According to a University of Hawaii news release, less than half of those saplings were planted by humans, with the rest sprouting on their own.
Jessica Kirkpatrick, CMS natural resource specialist, said in a statement that the success of the mamane saplings is because CMS is able to prevent invasive weeds or insects such as ants from infesting the area.
“All ants are introduced to Hawaii, and when they become established in our native ecosystems, they can have detrimental impacts to ecosystem function and contribute to species extinction,” Kirkpatrick said. “Maunakea is the only place in the state that does not have ants, and keeping it that way allows these endemic plants and arthropods that are host specific to these plants to thrive.”
Mamane provide habitats for the endangered palila bird, but are currently limited to small sub-alpine areas on Maunakea and Mauna Loa.
Other native plants introduced at the VIS include shrubs such as the ‘aweoweo, pawale and puakala, as well as a grass species called heʻupueo.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteer programs to assist with VIS restoration have been suspended indefinitely.