The Hawaii Experimental Tropical Forest (HETF) was established in 2007 to serve as a center for long term research and a focal point for developing and transferring knowledge and expertise for the management of tropical forests. The HETF is located on the Island of Hawaii and is divided into two units: the Laupahoehoe Wet Forest Unit and the Puu Waawaa Dry Forest Unit.
The Laupahoehoe Wet Forest Unit totals 12,387 acres (5,134 ha) and the Puu Waawaa Dry Forest Unit totals 38,885 acres (15,743 ha). The HETF overlays existing Hawaii State land designations. The Pacific Southwest Research Station in Hilo, Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry works with the State of Hawaii, Department of Land and Natural Resources in the management of the experimental forest.
For more information about the HETF visit http://www.hetf.us/.
For more information about the State of Hawaii, Department of Land and Natural Resources visit: http://hawaii.gov/dlnr
The two units of the HETF occupy distinct climate zones representing the two major climate conditions of the island.
The Laupahoehoe Unit is located on the eastern, windward flanks of Mauna Kea from about 1,700 ft to 6,100 ft (518 - 1860 m) elevation. Average annual rainfall in the lower part of the Unit is about 160 inches (418 cm) and approximately 60 to 100 inches (157 to 261 cm) at the upper part.
The Puu Waawaa Unit is located on the western, leeward side (Kona side) of the Big Island. It lies on the northern flank of Hualalai volcano, extending from sea level to within a mile (1.6 km) of the mountain summit, approximately 6,300 ft (1920 m) elevation. Puu Waawaa often receives afternoon convectional rainfall. The rainshed median annual rainfall is about 46.7 inches (121.9 cm) while at sea level the median annual rainfall is less than 10 inches (25.5 cm).
The Laupahoehoe Unit contains five primary native communities [pdf] as well as areas of non-native dominated vegetation covers and includes four life zones [pdf]. The native forest communities contain rare plants and provide important forest bird habitat.
The Puu Waawaa Unit covers the gradient of the major dry and mesic forest types [pdf] in Hawaii including five life zones [pdf]. It contains examples of highly degraded as well as intact native forests. Much of the mesic forests at the upper elevations are dominated by the ecologically and economically important koa.
Long-Term Data Bases
Long term climate monitoring equipment has been installed in both Units and the Laupahoehoe Unit also includes hydrology monitoring equipment. The HETF climate stations are part of the EPSCoR-ENDER (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research - Environmental Dynamics and Ecosystem Responses) Climate Network, an island-wide network of climate stations at locations across the island of Hawaii.
- Laupahoehoe Unit equipment includes a stream gauge in Manowaiopae Stream and a free standing aluminum weather station located within the Forest Reserve. The purpose of the stream gauge is to measure natural stream flows, water quality and sediment in a non-destructive manner. The weather station, installed in 2009, extends 10 feet above the forest canopy and collects daily rainfall, temperature, relative humidity, wind-speed, solar radiation (sunlight), soil moisture, soil temperature, and wind direction.
- Puu Waawaa Unit hosts multiple weather stations including two in the Forest Reserve, installed in 2003 (RAWS station) and 2011, and one in the Forest Bird Sanctuary, installed in 2012.
Long term vegetation plots are available in both Units including
- The Hawaii Permanent Plot Network (HIPPNET), http://www.hippnet.hawaii.edu/
- Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA), http://www.fia.fs.fed.us/
Major Research Accomplishments and Effects on Management
This will be an internationally recognized center for long term studies at scales from the plot to the watershed on forestry, conservation biology, endangered species, and invasive species to help us better understand how to restore and sustainably manage tropical forests. Land managers challenged with management of these important landscapes, will have the benefit of scientific information to inform their decisions. The experimental forest will also provide many new public education, research, and demonstration opportunities and will increase our understanding of Hawaiian forests and ways to sustainably mange them. Essentially all Federal, State, County, and Private Agencies and organizations as well as citizens concerned with sustainable land management and conservation of Hawaiian Islands will directly or indirectly benefit for the experimental forest.
- State of Hawaii, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife and Division of State Parks, http://hawaii.gov/dlnr/
- University of Hawaii (Hilo and Manoa Campuses), http://hawaii.edu/
- Three Mountain Alliance (Puu Waawaa watershed), http://hawp.org/partnerships/three-mountain/
- The Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance (Laupahoehoe watershed), http://hawp.org/partnerships/mauna-kea-watershed/
This experimental forest was established to address the critical natural resource and conservation questions that must be answered to properly manage tropical forests and watersheds for a variety of objectives including restoration, preservation, and utilization. The experimental forest provides a land base for conducting relevant natural resource related research -- both biological and physical in nature.
Six primary research themes serve as the fundamental guideposts for activities that further the goals of the HETF.
- Understand the composition, structure and function of tropical wet and dry forest ecosystems, including terrestrial and freshwater components and associated near shore marine ecosystems.
- Determine how biological and physical factors influence the function and health of tropical ecosystems, including freshwater and near shore marine environments.
- Develop models and tools to quantify and predict ecosystem responses to climate change and evaluate management options for restoring and sustaining ecosystem function.
- Identify conditions needed to support terrestrial, freshwater and associated near shore marine biodiversity and develop innovative and cost-efficient approaches to reduce the ecological impacts of non-native species and to restore degraded ecosystems.
- Improve measurement, modeling, and prediction of wildland fire and determine the ecological effects of fire and post-fire management strategies.
- Integrate research objectives, approaches, and applications with local communities and traditional Hawaiian resource values, uses, and management.
Laupahoehoe Unit facilities are located ~ 28 miles (or 45 minutes) from the USDA Forest Service, Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry headquarters and the University of Hawaii-Hilo campus where administrative, greenhouse, and laboratory support are located. Laupahoehoe facilities are located on 55 acres of old sugar cane lands within the Laupahoehoe community, approximately four miles from the HETF boundary. Facilities include a bunkhouse, kitchen, restrooms, and classroom/meeting space. Internet is available at the facility and most cellular phone providers get moderate reception. The facility site includes opportunities for research, education, and demonstration. A weather station, installed in 2009, is located onsite.
Additionally, there are plans to build a covered pavilion with restrooms and parking on a three acre fenced parcel directly below the forest boundary. This site would serve as a stepping stone for education and outreach into the forest with the potential for restoration and other forest activities within the three acre fenced area.
Infrastructure of roads, houses, and water supply, in various conditions, exist in the Puu Waawaa Unit. Non-exclusive use of specific State of Hawaii owned buildings are available for HETF related meetings and activities and overnight accommodations for Forest Service researchers. There are plans to build dedicated HETF facilities including a bunkhouse with kitchen, restrooms and classroom/meetings space.
Laupahoehoe Unit, Lat. 19.80528 N, Long. 155.26917 W
Puu Waawaa Unit, Lat. 19.73194 N, Long. 155.88611 W
Melissa K. Dean
Pacific Southwest Research Station in Hilo
Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry