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Posts tagged ‘hawaii forest history’


The Weirdest Duck of Them All

For anyone who has a bucket list of world class archaeological sites they would like to visit, we suggest putting Kauai’s Makauhawi Cave Reserve, Hawaii’s largest limestone cave, one of the richest fossil sites on the islands and a uniquely preserved archaeological site–on the top of your list.

This integrated site reveals 10,000 years of strata containing fossil remains of plants and animals and spans prehistory to post colonization.  As the website says, “It’s a living museum dedicated not just to the past but also to experiments in native species conservation”.

The reserve, located on Grove Farm Co. lands, a Kauai company owned by former AOL/Time Warner Chief, Steve Case, is managed by Lida Pigott Burney and Dr. David Burney with the help of volunteers and contributors from around the globe. For an overview of progressive work on the site and maps see this pdf— supported by National Tropical Botanical Garden, Grove Farm and National Geographic.

The excavation provides a view of  the evolution of Hawaii’s forest environments.Pollen and seeds found in the pre-human layers reveal that many plants that are now rare, or only known from isolated or upland areas, were once part of a complex coastal forest. These finds led Burney to the theory that today’s dominant native forest trees like ‘ohi’a, hala and koa were once comparatively small parts of the forest ecosystem. Once the ecosystem was disturbed by human contact, these survivors were able to gain greater density as other plants disappeared.

“Probably the key difference between pre-human times and now is that the early forests were much more diverse”,  Burney stated in a 2005 Honolulu Advertiser article.  The complex coastal forest of the region has been intricately described from seed and pollen remains. Two species of plants — kou and hala — that were once believed to be Polynesian introductions have been proven to predate human arrival.

One of the most intriguing discoveries at the site is described on Dr. Burney’s blog, the Weirdest Duck of Them All.



Research, Visit and Discover

If you would like to find out more about the forests and forest industries of Hawai’i, here are a few sites and places to research, visit and discover.



Alliances and Partnerships

For Students and Further Research

Visit and Discover



20th Century Commercial Forest Products Activities Hawai’i Island

Hawai’i Island Early Commercial Industry 1908-1917 and 1950-on

Click image to enlarge



Image copyright Forestry Management Consultants Hawai’i 1999


Late 1700s
Timber Resources Meet Needs of Growing Industries

With the opening of Hawai‘i to the outside world after the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1778, Hawaii’s timber resources supplied the needs, particularly for fuel wood, of the many trading and whaling vessels that plied the Pacific maritime routes in the late 1700s and the 1800s.

In addition, as many as six to seven hundred cords a year (1444 m3 – 1685 m3/282,000 fbm – 329000 fbm) of fuel wood were used at the mills of the growing sugar industry in Hawai‘i. This practice lasted approximately 50 years until the mid 1880s when the majority of plantations had converted to coal or new technologies that used residue from sugar cane–-called bagasse–for fuel.


Image–Captain Cook’s Moment of Discovery Kaua’i January 19, 1778. Courtesy, Artist, Raymond A. Massey, Ship Store Galleries, Kapaa, Kaua’i.



Commercial Forestry Activities in Hawai’i

Commercial forestry activities have been conducted in Hawai‘i since the arrival of early immigrants from Polynesia and other parts of the Pacific. These early settlers brought tree species from their homelands that were planted and used, along with indigenous trees, for the various activities of the society at that time.

Uses included, but were not limited to, home construction, religion, recreation, warfare, agriculture and fishing. It has been reported that more than 200 years ago large areas of land cover – conservatively estimated to be near 25 percent of the land area – had already been altered due to long term human impact.

Commercial forestry activities have played a small, generally unrecognized, but important and interesting role in the economic development of Hawai’i.

Today, these commercial forestry activities are positioned to play a larger role in the diversification of Hawaii’s economy as they mature in the 21st century.