Conservation and tradition to save Hawaiian ecosystem

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The islands of Hawaii form a unique and fragile ecosystem thousands of miles away from the nearest landmass. The legends and rituals of the nation’s indigenous people, ancestors of the first Polynesian settlers, are closely connected with the island’s plants, animals and landscape.

Tourism, industrial activity and modern recreation have since depleted Hawaii’s natural ecosystem and introduced invasive species that have caused severe damage. And along with indigenous plants and animals, the country risks losing local knowledge and customs.

Now, conservationists are teaming up with spiritual leaders to save Hawaii’s nature and culture. In many places where such work has taken place, rare species are thriving and fragile ecosystems, such as ancient cloud forests, are stabilising.

For this slideshow, SciDev.Net travelled to two important natural and cultural protection sites on the island of O’ahu: the sand dunes of Ka’ena Point, and the bog forest high on Mount Ka’ala.

The visit was guided by Samuel Okukani’ohi’a Gon, a senior scientist at Hawaii’s Nature Conservacy, and a Kahuna Kakalaleo, a spiritual chanter of traditional Hawaii.