Auwahi: ethnobotany of a Hawaiian dryland forest

Medeiros, A.C.
Davenport, C.F.
Chimera, C.G.
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Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Botany
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Auwahi district on East Maui extends from sea level to about 6800 feet (1790 meters) elevation at the southwest rift of leeward Haleakala volcano. In botanical references, Auwahi currently refers to a centrally located, fairly large (5400 acres) stand of diverse dry forest at 3000-5000 feet (915-1525 meters) elevation surrounded by less diverse forest and more open-statured shrubland on lava. Auwahi contains high native tree diversity with 50 dryland species, many with extremely hard, durable, and heavy wood. To early Hawaiians, forests like Auwahi must have seemed an invaluable source of unique natural materials, especially the wide variety of woods for tool making for agriculture and fishing, canoe building, kapa making, and weapons. Of the 50 species of native trees at Auwahi, 19 species (38%) are known to have been used for medicine, 13 species (26%) for tool-making, 13 species (26%) for canoe building, 13 species (26%) for house building, 8 species (16%) for tools for making kapa, 8 species (16%) for weapons, 8 species (16%) for fishing, 8 species (16%) for dyes, and 7 species (14 %) for religious purposes. Other miscellaneous uses include edible fruits or seeds, bird lime, cordage, a fish narcotizing agent, firewood, a source of "fireworks", recreation, scenting agents, poi boards, and holua sled construction. Nine species of trees (18%) have no recorded uses. In many of these cases, the wood appears to be a good quality durable hardwood for which there were likely ethnobotanical uses despite the lack of references in the literature. Auwahi has been greatly transformed by burning, grazing, and invasion by non-native plant species. As a result, Auwahi has had much of its original native shrub and understory replaced largely by a thick mat of introduced kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum). Many native tree species produce viable seed but few seedlings are found and fewer of these survive. Since the late 1960s, Auwahi has been the focus of protection and restoration efforts that continue to this day. Thus far efforts have had only limited success.
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Ethnobotany -- Hawaii -- Maui., Forest ecology -- Hawaii -- Maui., Plants -- Hawaii -- Maui.
Medeiros AC, Davenport CF, Chimera CG. 1998. Auwahi: ethnobotany of a Hawaiian dryland forest. Honolulu (HI): Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Botany. PCSU Technical Report, 117.
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