Merlin, Mark D.

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My research has focused on the cultural histories of human-plant interactions with special emphasis on the pan-global, traditional use of psychoactive species. I also study the human impact on native vegetation in tropical island ecosystems, both past and present, with a general interest in the natural history of Remote Oceania. My most important career object has been to contribute to and foster environmental education and preservation of traditional ecological and ethnobotanical knowledge.

Research Interests: Ethnobotany, Plant Ecology, Environmental History, Natural History of Remote Oceania, Human Impact on Hawaiian and other Tropical Pacific Islands


Dr. Mark Merlin
Professor of Botany
PhD 1979, University of Hawai'i at Manoa


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 7 of 7
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    Kava cultivation, native species conservation, and integrated watershed resource management on Pohnpei Island
    (University of Hawaii Press, 2005-04) Merlin, Mark David ; Raynor, William
    For many centuries, the kava plant, Piper methysticum, a series of sterile clones of a truly wild Piper species, has been used in several high islands in remote Oceania, including Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. Until modern times, its use on all of these islands was largely restricted to chiefly, priestly, and medicinal use. Because of colonial suppression and/or the use of other nonindigenous psychoactive drugs, its use was abandoned on some of these islands. On other islands, such as Pohnpei, its use has increased greatly, with substantial changes in rank, gender, motivation, time, and place. This steep rise in its use has resulted in a large increase in its cultivation. On Pohnpei, intensification of cropping in upland environments is largely responsible for more than 70% loss of the remaining native, tropical rain forest since 1975. This impact and other human activities endanger the unique upland biodiversity of this remote tropical island. Recent historical trends in forest exploitation, threats to biodiversity, and watershed disturbance on Pohnpei are discussed in this paper. The Watershed Conservation Plan and management benefits of the proposed Pacific-Asia Biodiversity Transect (PABITRA) are emphasized with permanent plot establishment for long-term monitoring.
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    Human perception of the Hawaiian endangered species: a preliminary report on a three-year random survey
    (Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Botany, 1978-06) Merlin, Mark David ; Smith, Clifford W
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    Report of the Kipahulu Bicentennial expedition
    (Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Botany, 1976-09) Lamoureux, Charles ; Stemmermann, Lani
    An expedition through Kipahulu Valley was organized to evaluate the frequenly implied negative environmental impact of the 1967 Kipahulu Valley Expedition. On the 1976 expedition four people trekked down through the valley from June 26 through 29, along the 1967 Expedition route, where possible. There is little evidence of the 1967 expedition remaining in the valley. The trails are difficult to locate and the campsites are recognizable only to those people who were on the expedition. There is no evidence of weeds being introduced into the valley along the 1967 trails. There is serious pig damage in the area between Basecamp 1 and Palikea.
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    The flora and vegetation of Laysan Island
    (National Museum of Natural History, The Smithsonian Institution, 1963-11-15) Lamoureux, Charles H.
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    A History of Ethnobotany in Remote Oceania
    (University of Hawai'i Press, 2000-07) Merlin, Mark D.
    Ethnobotany has had a relatively short history as a scientific or scholarly discipline, and according to R. L. Ford still lacks a unifying theory. In this paper the history of ethnobotany in Remote Oceania is reviewed. In sequence, the roots of Pacific ethnobotany in European exploration and colonial expansion are discussed, then the contributions of early foreign residents, and finally the rapidly growing field of scientific ethnobotany during the latter part of the twentieth century. Examples of key research from the disciplines of botany, anthropology, archaeology, and geography, as well as major trends in ethnobotanical research in Remote Oceania, are described.
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    Woody Vegetation on the Raised Coral Limestone of Mangaia, Southern Cook Islands
    (University of Hawai'i Press, 1991-04) Merlin, Mark D.
    Mangaia, the second largest (51.8 km2 ) of the Cook Islands, has a central, volcanic region with a maximum elevation of 169 m above sea level. The igneous interior is surrounded by an extensive formation of elevated coral limestone as much as 2 km wide and 70 m above sea level. Although the native vegetation in the volcanic interior has been altered greatly through human interference, a quantitative survey in the raised limestone region indicates that plant life on the elevated reefs is still largely dominated by native species. Seventy percent of the woody species recorded in 20 transects are either indigenous or endemic to the Cook Islands, and native plants accounted for 88% of the total basal area covered by the woody vegetation sampled on the raised coral limestone. Herbaceous ground cover in the study area was almost completely dominated by native species (99%). Four woody plant associations in the limestone areas are recognized by dendrogram analysis: (I) mixed native forest, dominated by Elaeocarpus tonganus; (2) disturbed mixed native forest, dominated by Hernandia moerenhoutiana or Cocos nucifera; (3) Pandanus scrub; and (4) Barringtonia forest. Some biogeographical aspects of the relatively undisturbed limestone forest region and the ecological implications of human disturbance of the vegetation on Mangaia are also discussed.
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    Woody Vegetation in the Upland Region of Rarotonga, Cook Islands
    (University of Hawai'i Press, 1985-01) Merlin, Mark D.
    Rarotonga is the largest (64 km2 ) and by far the highest (652 m) of the Cook Islands. The native coastal and lowland vegetation of this high volcanic, tropical island has been either completely removed or heavily disturbed. Numerous exotic plant species have been introduced and many of these are now naturalized in the lower elevation habitats of the island. The results of this initial, quantitative study in the upland forests of Rarotonga indicate, however, that the plant life of the rugged interior is still largely dominated by native species. Over 92 percent of all the woody plants (dbh > 2.5 cm) sampled in the 19 upland forest transects are either indigenous or endemic to Rarotonga. Native plants also accounted for more than 95 percent of the basal area covered by the woody vegetation in the upland study area. Three basic native plant associations have been recognized by dendrogram analysis: (1) the Homalium montane forest; (2) the Fagraea-Fitchia ridge forest; and (3) the Metrosideros cloud forest. The first two associations develop under subtropical climatic conditions, while the cloud forest is adapted to warm temperate conditions. Some aspects of the biogeographical significance of this unique forest region and the ecological implications of human disturbance in the uplands are also discussed.