Ecological Site Description Ecological Site Characteristics Site Identification



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Plant Communities


Ecological Dynamics of the Site

This ecological site occurs on a variety of substrates in wet, warm regions of Hilo and Puna districts of the Island of Hawai`i. Plant communities evolved without the presence of large mammals or the regular occurrence of fires. The original forest plant community is now disturbed and fragmented due to fires, timber cutting, domestic and feral ungulate foraging, establishment of introduced pasture grasses, and alien species invasion. Most areas of this ecological site bear little resemblance to their original appearance. Vegetation on unmanaged lands consists of either forest dominated by alien species or shrubby grassland dominated by alien species under a regime of periodic fires.



State and transition diagram

State 1 – Native Forest

Plant Community 1

This state represents the Historic Climax Plant Community. The general aspect is a forest with a tall (to about 80 feet), closed to open overstory of ohia trees, a secondary canopy of diverse trees species 25 to 40 feet tall, an open tree fern canopy 10 to 15 feet tall, and a diverse understory of shrubs and ferns. Vines are moderately abundant, particularly `ie`ie, both on the ground and on trees. Large bird’s nest ferns are common on trees and on the ground. The mid-canopy is dominated by pandanus trees near the coast; this species becomes less common with distance from the coast. Pandanus seems to be moderately invasive, and may be more common on previously disturbed sites or where it was encouraged by Hawaiians in the past. The forests of this ecological site have standing live timber of 500 to 8000 cubic feet per acre, with a representative value of about 1500 cubic feet per acre.


Joseph Rock described some of this area in the early 20th Century. He said, “Diospyros (lama tree) in lowland forest is especially common back of Hilo along the road to Olaa” (=Keaau). “Immediately back of Hilo is a somewhat mixed forest composed of species of trees peculiar to the dry and wet regions.”
Pathways from this state/plant community

To State 2, Mixed Native/Alien Forest, via “A&B”:

A = gradual weed invasion; B = feral pig damage.

Very aggressive weeds species are able to invade intact native forest, gradually replacing native species. This invasion is facilitated by feral pigs that damage native plants, disturb the soil, and spread weed seeds.
To State 4, Grassland, via “G&H”:

G = land clearing; H = pasture establishment.



Native Forest can be converted to Grassland by clearing the forest with heavy machinery and planting desirable pasture species. Native forest may be cleared gradually by allowing cattle access to the forest. Cattle eventually eat or destroy understory ferns, forbs, shrubs, and saplings, opening up the forest so that pasture grasses will thrive. On shallow soils over lava substrates, underlying lava rock often is ripped and crushed by heavy machinery. Ripping and crushing produces some fine mineral particles and small, abundant gaps between the rock fragments. When this is done on organic soils, about 50% of the soil organic matter may be lost in the process due to exposure to air and higher temperatures.

Plant species listed in the following tables have been observed in the course of field work or are derived from reliable records.

Abbreviations:

Origin: n = native (endemic or indigenous); a = alien (introduced by humans).

Type: t = tree; tf = tree fern; s = shrub; h = herb (forb); v = vine; f = fern; g = grasslike (grasses, sedges, rushes).
Composite representation of State 1, Plant Community 1, Native Forest.

Scientific name

%Canopy cover by height class (ft)

Total Cover


Local

common name


NRCS

common name

Origin

Type


NRCS

Code

0.1 -

2

2.1 -

4.5

4.6 -

13

13.1 -

40

40.1 -

80

80.1 -

120

Metrosideros polymorpha










1

40

10

50

'ohi'a lehua

'ohi'a lehua

n

t

MEPO5

Psychotria sp.

1

1

1

20







20

kopiko

wild coffee

n

t

PSYCH

Antidesma platyphyllum

1

1

5

1







5

hame,ha`a

ha`a

n

t

ANPL2

Cheirodendron trigynum

tr

1

1

1







1

olapa

olapalapa

n

t

CHTR2

Diospyros sandwicensis

tr

1

1

1

tr




1

lama

lama

n

t

DISA10

Tetraplasandra sp.










tr







tr

`ohe

tetraplasandra

n

t

TETRA11

Pisonia grandis










tr







tr

papala

grand devil's claws

n

t

PIGR6

Pandanus tectorius

1

1

1

5







5

pandanus

Tahitian screwpine

n

t

PATE2

Myrsine lessertiana

tr

1

1

1







1

kolea lau nui

kolea lau nui

n

t

MYLE2

Cibotium glaucum

1

1

20

1







20

hapu`u

hapu`u

n

tf

CIGL

Cibotium menziesii

tr

1

1

1







1

hapu`u `i`i

hapu`u li

n

tf

CIME8

Broussaisia arguta

1

1

5










5

kanawao

kanawao

n

s

BRAR6

Claoxylon sandwicensis

tr

tr

tr










tr

po`ola

po`ola

n

s

CLSA

Pipturus albidus

tr

tr

tr










tr

mamaki

Waimea pipturus

n

s

PIAL2

Cyrtandra sp.

5

10

1










10

ha `iwale

cyrtandra

n

s

CYRTA

Alyxia oliviformis

1
















1

maile

maile

n

v

ALOL2

Freycinetia arborea

10
















10

`ie`ie

`ie`ie

n

v

FRAR

Cocculus orbiculatus

1
















1

huehue

queen coralbead

n

v

COOR11

Peperomia sp.

1
















1

`ala`ala wai nui

peperomia

n

h

PEPER

Asplenium nidus




5













5

bird's nest fern

Hawai`i birdnest fern

n

f

ASNI

Adenophorus tamariscinus

1
















1

wahini noho mauna

wahini noho mauna

n

f

ADTA

Dicranopteris linearis

1
















1

uluhe

Old World forkedfern

n

f

DILI

Diplazium sp.

1
















1

 

twinsorus fern

n

f

DIPLA2

Elaphoglossum crassifolium

1
















1

stag's tongue, `ekaha

royal tonguefern

n

f

ELCR2

Haplopteris elongata

1
















1

`ohe`ohe

stiff shoestring fern

n

f

VIEL3

Huperzia sp.

1
















1

clubmoss

clubmoss

n

f

HUPER

Lycopodiella cernua

1
















1

clubmoss

staghorn clubmoss

n

f

LYCE2

Nephrolepis cordifolia

1
















1

narrow swordfern

narrow swordfern

n

f

NECO3

Ophioderma pendulum

1
















1

puapuamoa

Old World adder's tongue

n

f

OPPEP

Pneumatopteris hudsoniana

1

1













1

laukahi

Hudson's airfern

n

f

PNHU

Psilotum nudum

1
















1

moa

whisk fern

n

f

PSNU

Composite representation of State 1, Plant Community 1, Native Forest.

Scientific name

%Canopy cover by height class (ft)

Total Cover


Local

common name


NRCS

common name

Origin

Type


NRCS

Code

0.1 -

2

2.1 -

4.5

4.6 -

13

13.1 -

40

40.1 -

80

80.1 -

120

Pteris cretica

1
















1

`oali

Cretan brake

n

f

PTCR2

Pteris excelsa

1
















1

waimakanui

waimakanui

n

f

PTEX

Sphenomeris chinensis

1
















1

pala`a

Chinese creepingfern

n

f

ODCH

Vandenboschia sp.

1
















1

vandenboschia

vandenboschia

n

f

VANDE

Grasslike






















 

 







 

Native Forbs

1
















1

 

 

 

 

 

Exotic Forbs






















 

 

 

 

 

Native Vines/Epiphytes

10
















10

 

 

 

 

 

Exotic Vines






















 

 

 

 

 

Small ferns

10

1













10

 

 

 

 

 

Native Shrubs

10

1

5










10

 

 

 

 

 

Exotic Shrubs






















 

 

 

 

 

Native Trees

1

1

5

20

40

10

70

 

 

 

 

 

Tree ferns (native)

1

1

20

1







20

 

 

 

 

 

Exotic Trees & tree ferns






















 

 

 

 

 

Lichen






















 

 

 

 

 

Moss (on ground & logs)

50
















50

 

 

 

 

 

Moss (on trees)

40
















40

 

 

 

 

 

Logs on ground (>4" dia.)

5
















5

 

 

 

 

 

Litter (not logs)

50
















50

 

 

 

 

 

Surface rocks (>3" dia.)

1
















1

 

 

 

 

 

Surface rocks (<3" dia.)

tr
















tr

 

 

 

 

 

Bare Soil

1
















1

 

 

 

 

 


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