Fire effects in the coastal lowlands: Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

Tunison, J.T.
Leialoha, J.A.K.
Loh, R.L.
Pratt, L.W.
Higashino, P.K.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Botany
Since 1975 fire frequency has increased sharply in the coastal lowlands of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. This was due largely to increases in grass biomass following the removal of feral goats and/or the spread of fire-tolerant species. Fire effects were studied in 13 sites within five lava or lightning caused burns occurring between 1985 and 1989. The study sites were located in five major plant communities and two ecotones. Grasslands characterized the vegetation of the central coastal lowland sites, and lowland scrub with native shrub overstory and alien grass understory characterized the sites in the eastern lowlands. All of the coastal lowlands were severely impacted by Polynesian cultivation and burning practices, nineteenth century cattle grazing, and 150 years of feral goat browsing and grazing. Cover was determined by point-intercept methods along unreplicated transects established prior to the fire or by replicated burned and unburned pairs of transects. Density of shrubs was determined in plots along the paired transects. Frequency of resprouting of woody plants was determined by monitoring individual plants for one year. The results differed from those observed by Hughes et al. (1991) and Smith and Parman (1981) in the lower submontane seasonal zone. Alien grass cover did not increase in most sites, and total native cover usually increased or remained the same. In the eastern coastal lowlands, fire characteristically stimulated the spread of the native subshrub Waltheria indica, bunchgrass Heteropogon contortus, and shrubs Dodonaea viscosa and Osteomeles anthyllidifolia. Fire however depleted the tall native shrub component by nearly eliminating Wikstroemia sandwicensis. Waltheria and Heteropogon generally were also stimulated in the central lowlands but not sufficiently to increase total native plant cover in most sites. These findings lead to the conclusions that the Park's policy of total fire suppression should continue to protect the native shrub component of the rare Wikstroemia shrubland, allow natural recolonization of the central grasslands by native trees and shrubs, and prevent the spread of the disruptive fire-stimulated Melinis and Hyparrhenia. However, a judicious use of prescribed burning, on an experimental basis, may be useful in establishing fuel breaks and stimulating the recovery of native species such as Heteropogon and Dodonaea.
Reports were scanned in black and white at a resolution of 600 dots per inch and were converted to text using Adobe Paper Capture Plug-in.
Tunison JT, Leialoha JAK, Loh RL, Pratt LW, Higashino PK. 1994. Fire effects in the coastal lowlands: Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Honolulu (HI): Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Botany. PCSU Technical Report, 88.
Access Rights
Email if you need this content in ADA-compliant format.