Posted July 2, 2015 by Rachel Smith
Disclaimer: This is the first of a 4 post series that will all relate back to this initial post. I will take you through the processes we use to effectively control our targeted plant species, starting today, with an explanation of why and how we make our decisions to use different control methods. Stay tuned for the series posts in the coming weeks!
Successful conservation work is often a balancing act. Unfortunately most of the conservation efforts, organizations, and agencies in Hawaii are often under funded and under staffed, while simultaneously bearing a huge load of native species habitat restoration and preservation work. Therefore, when considering the best pest management for fieldwork, cost efficiency, environmental consciousness, and overall effectiveness are the key components in making that decision. The word conservation takes on many forms. It can mean preservation or restoration to a natural environment, or the repair of an archaeological or historical site, or the prevention of excessive use of natural resources. But regardless of the definition, it stems from the Latin word “conservare” meaning to keep. Therefore, those of us who work in conservation are working to keep in tact, the environmental or cultural significance of a designated area.
In Hawaii we are faced with impending conservation issues. Between substandard biosecurity, international travel and trade in and out of the islands everyday, and year round optimal growing conditions, invasive species have great opportunities to call Hawaii home. Consequently, conservationists must account for these imminent dangers, as well as many other factors, including terrain, weather, accessibility, and finances, when planning and making decisions about control methods. At KISC, we always adopt the goal to use the most effective, ecosystem conscious, and cost efficient methods seemingly possible for a particular species in its specific location. We achieve this goal often, by using Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
According to Science Daily.com, the definition of Herbicide is a pesticide used to kill unwanted plants. Furthermore, the EPA defines Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on common-sense practices. The key phrases to pull out of those definitions are “unwanted plants” and “common-sense practices”. At KISC, we consider ourselves to use common sense in our daily operations, and in fact, the entire mission of our organization happens to be eliminating “unwanted plants”, among other unwanted pests species.
KISC is actively controlling 14 different incipient invasive plant species. Some of the more commonly known species are Miconia, Long Thorn Kiawe, False Kava, and Mules Foot Fern (please check out these species on our “KISC Pests” page!). We control all these species by first practicing IPM. There is a four-tiered approach to effective IPM.
- Surveying, identifying, and understanding pest lifecycles, natural predators, and growing area. This is where our Early Detection actions come into play, meaning, identifying a species and its threat level.
- Monitoring for a species, and determining appropriate control methods based on pest numbers and damage. Here we also set guidelines for when management action of the invasive species is needed.
- Implementing prevention methods, where preventing the spread of a new invader can have the lowest risk to people, the environment, as well as being cost-effective.
- Controlling and managing the pest, using a combination of manual, mechanical, chemical, and biological control, when available.
After we have implemented the first three steps to effective IPM, we consider control methods. The practice of IPM focuses on the long term prevention of invasive species or pests, therefore, at KISC, the control method we end up choosing for a specific plant species is always a carefully thought out decision. Some of the control methods we use for our target species include, manual control, mechanical control, as well as chemical control. KISC also has used and supported biological control managed by Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA). Each of these methods, I will explain in detail, specific to the KISC program, in the next three-blog posts.
When manual and mechanical control are not applicable due to terrain or severity of infestation, and bio control is not available, the next option is chemical control. It is important to note, that while we do use herbicides for management of our target species, we are still able to attain our afore mentioned goal of remaining effective, ecosystem conscious, and cost efficient. Our crew is properly trained by the HDOA and all three crew supervisors are HDOA licensed applicators to use pesticides in the safest way. We adopt techniques that allow us to use as little herbicide as possible, while applying it in the least harmful way to ensure as little adverse effects to the surrounding natural area. We use only non-restricted chemicals, meaning we use nothing stronger than what a homeowner can buy at Home Depot. Furthermore, some of our techniques for applying these chemicals are utilizing cutting edge, safe, and really cool technology! (For more info on this, please look forward to the 3rd post in this coming blog series!)
All of the methods of control KISC uses fit with in the Integrated Pest Management criteria. If we did not adopt all parts of this process to our action plans, it is safe to assume the invasive species we manage would be quickly moving out of the early detection stage and into an unmanageable population. Walking the line between control methods can be difficult. Unfortunately sometimes in conservation, some species need to be trapped and dispatched in order to ensure the survival of another species. A great example of this is the introduced Indian Mongoose vs. all native ground nesting birds. Without control of the mongoose, the native birds are left prey to the voracious and rapidly reproducing mongoose. Similarly, this line is walked when choosing control methods for treating invasive plants. As conservationists, we make the best decision to manage a pest considering many parameters that may not often be visible to the public, but we always have “conservare” in mind. We are keepers. We work to keep the natural, native, pristine, and diverse ecosystems in Hawaii safe from ever-impending threats.