Symposium Info

Save the Date! Next Symposium April 3, 2020

2019 Nāhelehele Dryland Forest Symposium

The 13th annual Nāhelehele Dryland Forest Symposium was held at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo, on Wednesday, March 27th. It featured presentations by scientists, cultural specialists, community conservationists and others who are working to learn about and preserve Hawaiian dryland forest plants and ecosystems.

The dryland forests of Hawai‘i are fragile habitats that are home to many of the rarest plants in the world. Dryland forests were once considered to be the most diverse forest ecosystem on the Hawaiian Islands but today they are extremely deforested and degraded. Only remnant patches of the habitat remain to remind us of the highly diverse community of plants and animals that once dominated the landscape of West Hawai‘i and many other areas of the State. The Dryland Forest Symposium provides a forum for hearing about recent developments in dryland forest conservation and restoration, and an opportunity to interact with others interested in dryland forest.

We were honored to have Hālau ‘Ōhi‘a open the event with a kīpaepae to help establish and strengthen our specific intentions as we engaged in this symposium meant to help conserve a resource with profound biocultural significance.

2019 Symposium Speakers:

Keynote speaker Dr. Jennifer Powers from the University of Minnesota. An avid researcher of tropical dry forests in Costa Rica since 1994, Powers investigates the relationships among ecological processes, the patterns they generate, and the effects of anthropogenic environmental changes across a
range of spatial and temporal scales. She set the stage for our theme that emphasizes setting and achieving realistic goals for dry forest restoration in our uncertain era of climate change, competitive funding, diverse community priorities, and related green infrastructure initiatives. The title of her talk was: Radical In Every Sense of the Word: Restoration and Forest Regeneration in Guanacaste Conservation Area, Costa Rica.

Other speakers included:
Dr. Natalie Kurashima of UH-Manoa:  Restoring to the Future: Environmental, Cultural and Management Trade-Offs in Historic Versus Hybrid Restoration of a Highly Altered Ecosystem in Limahuli, Kauaʻi

Jen Lawson of Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative: Finding Value in Degraded Forests.

Bobby Camara, an expert on botany and traditional ecology: Opportunities and Pitfalls in Landscaping with Natives in Public Spaces

Dr. Christian Giardina, USDA Forest Service Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry: Understanding Stewardship Across Geographic and Social Landscapes:The Stewardship Mapping & Assessment Project in North Kona-South Kohala

Philipp Lahaela-Walter of DOFAW:  Update of Current Efforts to Create A Forest Carbon Market in Hawai‘i

Dr. Chris Balzotti, a postdoctoral researcher for Arizona State University:  Climate, Biodiversity, & Land Use: A Story About Scale

Pablo Beimler, Hawai‘i Wildfire Management Organization:  Fire Follows Fuel: A Collaborative Approach Towards Cross-Boundary Vegetative Fuels Management for Wildfire Mitigation 

Dr. Patrick Hart of UH-Hilo Biology:  Ecology and song of dry forest birds in Hawai‘i

Speed Session, 5-minute talks:   Eszter Collier, TCBES student, Mapping Biological Soil Crusts in a Dryland Ecosystem;  Mary-Fem Urena, UH Hilo Environmental Science major, Restoration Mapping at the Hauaina Dryland Forest Site in Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a;  Dr. Stephanie Yelenik, U.S. Geological Survey, Disturbance and Plant Community Assembly in Exotic-Dominated Arid Landscapes on Hawai‘i;  Dr. Elliott Parsons, DLNR, Conservation & Restoration Progress at Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a;  Mark Hanson, Update on Sandalwood Endeavors; Lena Schnell, Pōhakuloa Training Area, Updates at PTA; Mary Metcalf, Ka‘ahahui ‘o ka Nāhelehele, Establishing Dry Forest Corridors in West Hawai‘i: Update on Progress; James Akau, Nā Mamo o Kāwā, Kāwā Dry forest and Coastal Revegetation Project; Ray Keenan, Hilton Waikoloa, Landscaping with Natives in a Hotel Setting

Poster Sessions:  Dr. J.B. Friday, Rapid ʻŌhiʻa DeathDr. Aurora K. Kagawa-Viviani, Diverging Strategies Enable Persistence of Lama and Alaheʻe under Grass Invasion and Removal; Dr. Christian Giardina, Kaʻūpūlehu Dry ForestMark Hanson, Sandalwood; The Kohala Center, Highlights of Conservation Efforts; Dr. Kasey Barton and Kealoha Feliciano, Seedling Drought Tolerance

Field Trip:  There was also an accompanying field trip to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park with Sierra McDaniel, of the U.S. National Park Service on Tuesday, March 26. Sierra and HVNP crew led a fascinating field trip exploring the burn area of the Keauhou Ranch Fire which consumed nearly 4,000 acres of native shrubland and forest on the slopes of Mauna Loa in early August 2018. Impacts within the Park include fire damage to over nine miles of ungulate proof fence, loss of important vegetation communities that provided habitat for native birds, insects and bats, and increased potential for non-native plant invasion. Field trip participants witnessed the recovery that has begun and learned how park managers are working to facilitate native recovery, increase biodiversity and build fire resilience and resistance through rehabilitation efforts.


The Nāhelehele Dryland Forest Symposium is a project of Ka‘ahahui ‘o ka Nāhelehele, a non-profit organization dedicated to dryland forest advocacy and partnerships. Sponsors of this symposium include the Hawai‘i Forest Institute through their Mahalo ‘Āina Initiative, the State of Hawai‘i Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Kamehameha Schools and Mary Begier Realty.


Videos of the above talks can be found on the following page:  Symposium Videos

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