Fight against miconia has ‘mixed’ year
Whatever happened to efforts in Hawaii to eradicate the invasive miconia plant?
Answer: State invasive species coordinator Mindy Wilkinson said 2006 has been a "mixed bag" of good news and bad news.
The good news is there have been no mature miconia calvescens plants reported on Kauai and Oahu this year, as a result of invasive-species eradication efforts. "They're getting them before they're flowering," Wilkinson said.
But Wilkinson said the numbers have been increasing on the Big Island, especially in the Puna and Hilo districts.
On Maui, the group fighting invasive species has had a "very successful year" with a study showing a reduction in the number of miconia plants, as well as flowering plants. The U.S. Forest Service is looking at using a psyllid insect found from Mexico to Brazil to control miconia.
Wilkinson said she is worried because funding is being cut by the state and federal governments. She said on the Big Island, the state Legislature chose to reduce funding by about half, from $4 million to about $2 million, to fight invasive species.
On Maui, funding for the Maui Invasive Species Program is being reduced by 40 percent next year to about $1.3 million, due to a federal cutback.
"If there isn't adequate funding, the efforts will have been for nothing on Maui and Hawaii," Wilkinson said.
In Tahiti, where miconia has taken over an estimated 70 percent of the native forest, islanders are reeling from its environmental impact, including mudslides, watershed degradation, and the elimination of native species.
A native of South America, the plant grows up to 50 feet tall with leaves more than a foot and a half wide and close to 3 feet long, blocking sunlight to other plants, effectively killing them or stunting their growth.
This update was written by Star-Bulletin reporter Gary T. Kubota.
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