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The Hawaiian Islands as a Model System for Ecosystem Studies

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Title: The Hawaiian Islands as a Model System for Ecosystem Studies
Authors: Vitousek, Peter M.
Issue Date: Jan 1995
Publisher: University of Hawaii Press
Citation: Vitousek PM. 1995. The Hawaiian Islands as a model system for ecosystem studies. Pac Sci 49(1): 2-16.
Abstract: The Hawaiian Islands encompass an extraordinary range of
variation in climate and soil age in a small area; the younger volcanoes are also
extraordinary for their lack of variation in relief or topography, parent material,
and biota (before widespread invasions by alien species). Consequently,
in Hawai'i the independent and interactive effects of temperature, precipitation,
and soil age on ecosystem structure and function can be evaluated with a power
that is beyond the reach of studies elsewhere. Not only are extreme conditions
well represented in Hawai'i, but there are also complete gradients between the
extremes, allowing the determination of the relationships as well as the differences
among sites. My colleagues and I have established two sets of sites that
make use of these gradients: the Mauna Loa Environmental Matrix, a set of
lava flows ('a'a versus pahoehoe, old versus young) that cover a broad elevational
range on the wet east versus dry northwest flank of Mauna Loa; and a
chronosequence of sites that reaches from Kilauea (~300 yr old) to Kaua'i
(~4,100,000yr old) at 1200 m elevation, 2500 mm annual precipitation. These
sites are being used to determine climatic and developmental controls of ecosystem
function. I report some of the early results here.
ISSN: 0030-8870
Appears in Collections:Pacific Science Volume 49, Number 1, 1995

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