Hawai'i can be identified as Hawai'i because of the native residents, plants, animals, and the geography of our islands. But how would you feel if you woke up one day to find that you didn't recognize any of the trees? How about if forests fires and or grass fires were to become common place? Or even, if you couldn't go hiking, exploring or sight seeing without seeing cats everywhere? Lots of tough decisions lay ahead but if we want to preserve and restore that which makes Hawai'i a jewel in the Pacific, we must not be afraid to be decisive.
To be Hawai'i, or not to be?
The bottom line threat of invasive species boils down to this: do you want Hawai'i to be populated by native and indigenous plants and animals or do you want Hawai'i to turn into a clone of the mainland U.S. or various parts of Asia?
Plant ecosystems, animal and insect ecosystems, and our ocean ecosystems, are quite literally at stake. Did you know that 90% of Hawai'i's plants occur nowhere else?
The reason why so many invasive species thrive here is because Hawai'i has the vast majority of the many different ecosystem types. On top of that, the plant species that evolved here do not have the self defense mechanisms that invasive species do. Why can't they defend themselves against predation, infestation and other types of attack? Simple, they evolved in an environment where there were little to no predators throughout the entire course of their evolution which negated the need for any defense mechanisms. As a result, our plants get out competed by aggressive, fast growing plants from elsewhere.
There are many groups, outside of the state funded programs, that are working diligently and consistently to do their part to control the spread of invasive species or to eradicate them entirely. There are groups working both on the land and in the water on this issue.
I believe that we must increase the funding for our invasive species programs. We must embark on more extensive educational campaigns as well as making more time to educate the public and tourists on their way in to visit Hawai'i. Having more eyes and ears that are trained to identify invasive species will only help the state of Hawai'i to control the problem. But, we must be very proactive in our fight.
It isn't just invasive plants that we are fighting though. There are invasive ferile cats, invasive algae, invasive snails, invasive beetles, and the list goes on. Ultimately we have to decide and act on the invasive species that are threatening various parts of our islands. To not act is to silently approve of the changes these species will make and to disavow responsibility of the destruction they will cause.
I believe that with greater funding, awareness, education and coordination, we can effectively manage the invasive species and allow our endangered, native, and endemic species to thrive once again.