For anyone familiar with scientific studies or research projects, the common assumption is to set your parameters at the start and to follow them diligently to completion. Varying your methods can alter results or skew an outcome to favoring one thing over another. The process can be applied within the field of ecology and in some way could have been implemented here at Kure. However, this project is far too dynamic and the process for methods done on Green Island falls into a category best termed as adaptive management.
Adaptive management is exactly as it sounds, you adapt your management strategy over time and this is why it is critical to a project such as this one. It might not always be needing to change something that isn’t working but sometimes change the approach to achieve better results in that moment of time. When this project started 6 years ago, you could imagine the approach simply being anything to knock back the dense stands of Verbesina and get the ball rolling in eradicating it. That part was more or less simple. The focus was heavily verbecina and verbecina was found heavily in most places. But what happens when Verbesina is far less abundant and kept in check with regular treatment rotations? What do you do with the space it left and how do you find the few verbecina remaining? These are some of the many questions those in charge face and why adapting strategies is only to the project’s benefit.
Under the concept of better finding the few verb remaining and overcoming the hump to reaching full eradication, the recent transition was transecting naupaka Restoration Areas in full passes. Initially, for some areas, trails were cut through some RA’s and it was from these you would access the RA and treat what weeds you could find from it. Since trails allow ground space and let in more sunlight, they aren’t necessarily ideal as they can quickly become an area hospitable to fast growing weeds. In order to minimize open space and more thoroughly cover these RA’s, recent crews have taken to side-by-side transects that have us zigzagging back and forth between one another, clambering over and squeezing through naupaka branches to search every inch of ground possible. Sound laborious and no doubt it is but there’s an essence of fun to it as well. To achieve full eradication, all verb have to go and especially before they seed and scatter anywhere else.
On the other hand as commonly seen, when you take one thing out of an ecosystem or space something else is obviously going to try and fill that gap if it can. Once areas were cleared of tall standing Verbesina, the ideal want would be for native flora and fauna to be the ones moving in. Initially this took place, however over time varying weather and seasonality allowed for ideal and non-ideal plants to fill in and die back at different rates. They don’t always spread quickly or react under the same accord so sometimes it takes a helping hand. It also takes firm measure to keep those at bay who might arrive, like fast growing weeds, which brings me to the plant Lobularia maritima.
So what about lob? That is, what about the plant more commonly known as Sweet Alyssum found in gardens and landscaping most everywhere. It might not seem like a very noxious weed to many and by no means does it pose the same threat to seabirds as Verbesina does, but all the same its presence here on Green Island isn’t welcome. For the camp of Winter 2015, it seems lob has easily become the most common plant we see in any RA we treat.
With its slender green leaves, delicate white flowers, and sweet smell that offer refuge from the many pungent odors encountered on this island, it’s hard to want to see it gone when you don’t look deep into the matter. The primary goal of this project is to reach full eradication of Verbesina but ultimately all species of invasive/non-native plants as well. One primary reason lob poses such a problem is that the way it grows tends to hide plants around or within it, small verb commonly one of them. It makes our job a whole lot harder to find a plant when it’s buried within a blanket of green leaves and if you chance to miss it and not get back to that RA in time, it could grow out and seed which is what we are trying to avoid. Lob’s further trickery is that Lobularia cotyledons (the first growth form of a sprouting plant) highly resemble Verbesina cotyledons. Needing to count the number of verb we treat, it can be a pain to tease through which is which for such a small plant.
Lob also poses a concern to the growth and abundance of native vegetation by either quickly taking up ground cover or stealing water in its thirst happy habits. In a place where water and space can be limited, you’d see why this is a problem. This is where the story of our winter season gets interesting. Most plants exhibit a flux in growth and a seasonal dieback. When we first arrived on island we were told that we wouldn’t see much lob after our first round of treatments because it tends to die back come December. Well, it never did. It seems the entire time we’ve been here we have seen lob in a continuous state of growth from new seedlings to voluminous plants and the cycle over again. Quite seemingly in some open areas they appear visually to have overtaken much of the ground scape. It isn’t necessarily making our lives difficult but it is making our work tougher as we have to be far more diligent and spend more time in treating areas we could otherwise breeze through more quickly. As for why the lob never fully died back as expected, I’m thinking it has something to do with the change of weather under the El Nino pattern we were in.
I should preface that at some point the going will get better. Once lob shows its normal patterns and the other native vegetation like nohu and alena bounces back, the presence of it will be cut back. For now are work is to keep it in check for future seasons to handle when more readily allowable. This is all part of adaptive management. You never know what scenarios or settings will arise and it takes in the moment judgment to predict what will happen and how you are going to handle it. We took on lob in full force. One day when it is less abundant the plans will change and the approach will be something different.
So come the time we finally get off the island, if your garden or landscaping is missing a certain plant, don’t blame us, it’s seemingly now ingrained in us.
DLNR Kure crew member, Ryan Potter
Step 1: Collect supplies. You will need: a sharp knife, plastic wrap, wet sand and waterproof ties like flagging, electrical or garden tape.
Step 2: Choose a branch. Select a stem from the previous year’s growth that is about one inch in diameter. Larger branches will grow roots but they are not always strong enough to hold up the larger plants.
Step 3: Girdle the branch. With your knife, cut a 0.25-1 inch strip of bark away from your branch. If the bark does not peel off the branch your section of the plant is not a good candidate for air layering, try a new branch and return to step 2. If the bark easily slips off the branch move on to step 4.
Step 4: Remove the cambium layer. With your knife, scrape the newly exposed area to remove the cells that form new tissues known as the cambium layer. Intact, the cambium layer will grow over the girdled area and stop new roots from developing.
Step 5: Envelope your girdle with sand. Place two handfuls of wet sand in a square of plastic wrap and tightly wrap the soil around the girdle, securing it in place by tying both ends tightly with tape. This part is tricky, requires dexterity and after a few tries everyone on Kure seems to come up with their own methods. I like to tie one end of the plastic wrap around my branch before adding the wet sand when I am working alone. Enlisting a buddy can make this step easier and keep the bundle tight enough to prevent moisture from leaving the sand as well as keeping additional moisture from entering during heavy rains.
Step 6: Monitor the air layer. If ants, birds or wind rip holes in the plastic wrap you should remoisten the sand and either reapply new plastic wrap or use tape to cover the holes so the stem and roots will not dry out.
Step 7: Transplant the air layer. When roots become visible through the plastic wrap, your air layer is ready to be transplanted. Cut off the branch below your air layer so that when you walk away you have the branch as well as the plastic wrapped roots in hand. Prune the top of the branch to make sure your plant is not top heavy. In a shaded area, remove ties and plastic wrap but keep root ball intact. When you place the branch into a pot, make sure the plant is not overly jostled in order to protect the roots.
This process is also recommended to be used on endangered plants that need to be pruned. Instead of throwing away branches, the same branches can be air layered, cut away and replanted. Currently, the naupaka bushes around camp look pretty festive with their plastic wrap/flagging tape adornments.
Reference: Lilleeng-Rosenberger, Kerin E 2005 Growing Hawai’I’s Native Plants: A Simple step-by-step approach for every species. Mutual Publishing, LLC. Honolulu, Hawaii.
Green Island is a single entity but to those of us who work here it feels more like 91. With no term used more frequently throughout the work we do, the island is broken down into individual Restoration Areas (RA’s) which guide how we approach our work days. At five months in and having finished our third complete island treatment you’d think we would have down the names and locations of each of these places. I feel I finally got the hang of it but still find myself calling ‘Kikaha’ ‘Keiki Papa’ and switching what side of the island each is on.
When this 10-year project started by no means were all 91 RA’s set in place and marked from day one. Until summer 2014, the project focused on selected areas (often those more inundated with Verbesina) and slowly built up with new RA’s each season until the entire island was mapped and being treated. The recent layout takes an average of 5 to 6 week to complete a full rotation and treat all 91 areas. Each RA typically falls into one of three categories and range from anything as small as 0.02 acres on up to the aptly named Runway at 11.5 acres. The three categories used to describe an RA are those primarily of open space, those more heavily covered in naupaka, and those in which the Cassytha infestation was originally in. At the start of each day we wait outside the bunkhouse steps for Eryn’s word on where we’re headed and what RA’s we’ll be treating. With this news comes various reactions as there are places you get excited about and those you dread as everyone obviously will have their likes and dislikes being it an easy time or dodging burrows left and right. For me I’ve come to love Hana-2000 for its gentle naupaka front, sloping ridge, and this image you get as you creep over it into the valley of Hana Manu. Albeit it has it’s spot of treachery with deep underground burrows in soft sand but with patience you come to see past it as you stand atop the RA and take in a panoramic of most of the island.
We treat each individual RA apart from the others around it and take a set of data metrics to document the number and plants present for each treatment. Given this breakdown of lines and borders it would be a weighty task for someone to memorize all 91 areas and the edges that described them in such a short season. Thus to be effective in the limited time we’re here, between GPS maps and selectively placed marine debris buoys/marking flags, it takes a little looking around to find where one RA starts and another one ends. Of course with occasional accuracy errors on a GPS or a moved buoy or two there was plenty of discussion of “Wait, here?” when we first started. If you saw the map of how these 91 intricate puzzle pieces are set together and the boundaries that surround them, you’d understand why it could get confusing without guided hands as we have had in Andy and Eryn.
I know the topic might not seem like much but to us it’s as close to say visiting another city as we’ll ever get while we are out here. Typically confined to the area of camp, a trip to North Point brings a refreshing glimpse of things we’re not so used to. Furthermore, it has taken me up to this point to finally figure out what most of the unique RA names mean and how they came into being. I feel human beings have an innate urge to name things as it occasionally puts more meaning to something and thus we don’t just look at sequential 1 to 91 as it very well could have been done. Instead, we look at a list that entails names like Pole 10 or 11, RA 01 (which isn’t actually number 1), Camp, The Glens, Southwest Dunes, or the Hawaiian language cohort with the likes of Ilihia, Hana Mana Ku, Huliau, or Aina Anunu. Here is my attempt to describe what all the RA’s are.
There are those that stayed basic as RA 1-10, and RA 12-18. Where 11 went we don’t quite know.
Pole 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, and 11 are those RA’s named after and located around the old LORAN tower anchorage points which were replaced with poles as marker points.
There are the basic straightforward names that say it as they are to include Camp, Pier BFAL (Black-footed Albatross) Colony, Beach Heliotrope, Camp Rd to Runway, Rd to Monument, Monument (named for the USCG monument erected in the middle of it), Northeast Point, East BFAL Colony, East (Runway) Turnaround, Runway, West Turnaround, West Landfill, Navigation Tree (the lone remaining iron wood tree used for navigation by vessels approaching the atoll), NW Dunes South/North, East/West of Plots, West of Kipuka Wai, 2000 Ridge (interior ridge set at 2000 meter marker along runway), South of Monument Road, Radar Hill (hill alongside old radar tower dismantled on the beach), Southwest Dunes, North Point, 1000 & 2000 Paths (access route to beach set at respective meter marker on runway), Northeast Beach, East Beach, Sector 5 East and West (spanning the length of the corresponding NMFS island beach sector), and Sector 4 East and West.
There are those needing a little explanation to include The Glens (one I’ve yet to find out about), Fledgling Hill (central plain hill commonly used by fledging albatross chicks for a path to the wind), Cenchrus Patch (area once filled excessively with Cenchrus grass), Brad’s Pit (no, not after the actor but after a loving brother who helped dig the seep for the ducks on the island), Field of Dreams (an area named for the dream of what it might one day look like not covered in Verbesina), W.C.P.E. (West Central Plain Edge), Booby Acres East/West (open area known as Booby Acres Proper predominately used by brown and masked boobies for nesting), Plots (the original plot for which Verbesina treatments were conducted in), Kelly’s Corner (named after a dear friend of the crew), The Cove (a small inland pocket of Black-footed albatross), Bermuda Triangle (my guess is the presence of Bermuda grass and its triangular shape but maybe someone got lost there once), Booby Traps (burrow filled area alongside booby acres west), E.B.A.E (East of Booby Acres East and our closest thing to online shopping), Mega Buff (I think it’s due to the swollen bicep appearance the shape its outline takes but it could just be a mega buffer along the Cassytha zone), Oblivion (it’s just lost out there), No Man’s Land (Because you just shouldn’t go there), The Back 4 (a 4 acre plot on the far back corner of the runway and one of the last named also in reference to the back 40), Hana-2000 (jointed next to Hana Manu but with a starting point at the 2000 meter marker off the runway).
Then last of all are the Hawaiian based names and their meanings as follows: Mea Mea (unknown), Launui (Big Leaf–for the dense naupaka and giant heliotrope that are in it), Kukaulike (Potentially of a rainbow or spring), Aina Anunu (Anunu (native Hawaiian vine) Land), Haleiwa (House of ‘Iwa (Frigatebirds)), Hana Manu (Valley of the Birds, the middle of the RA is an open valley once filled with a number of Laysan Albatross), Hana Manu Ku (Miraculous Spot, quaint naupaka grove nestled between West of Kipuka Wai and Kipuka Wai), Huliau (Turning Point), Ilihia (Stricken With Awe and Reverence as by beauty), Kawelu (Hawaiian name for Eragrostis variabilis bunch grass which grows abundantly there), Keiki Papa (Children of Papa/earth), Kikaha (Soaring or Meandering), Kipuka Wai (Seep, first seep dug for the Laysan ducks), Kupu`ea (Life of Growth), Pomaikai (Blessed), Pu `u Moli (Albatross Hill).
By now I feel you all should feel quite familiar to everything Kure and ready to suit up and treat the island yourselves. We’re soon headed out so I think you’d be fine replacements.
DLNR Kure crew member, Ryan Potter
-Disclaimer: Several RA meanings are under the belief of the author and may not follow complete accuracy for their original creation but this is how I have come to see them.