Wetlands constitute less than three percent of the State, but they have had a major economic effect on Hawaiian society both before and after European contact.
Wetlands are habitats for several species of birds and plants endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. Wetland formation in Hawaii is influenced by climate, topography, and geology; wetlands form where local hydrologic conditions favor water retention near the land surface. Although rainfall is high in many areas of the islands, steep topography and the high permeability of the volcanic rock that forms the islands result in rapid discharge of storm runoff to the ocean as surface-water and ground-water flow. Coastal wetland losses have been greatest on Oahu, where wetlands have been drained and filled for resort, industrial, and residential development.
Hawaii List of Threatened and Endangered Species
The Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) — called the “Ramsar Convention” — is an intergovernmental treaty that embodies the commitments of its member countries to maintain the ecological character of their Wetlands of International Importance and to plan for the “wise use”, or sustainable use, of all of the wetlands in their territories. The Convention on Wetlands came into force for the USA on 18 April 1987. The USA presently has 35 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, with a surface area of 1,827,196 hectares.
Kawainui and Hamakua Marsh Complex. 02/02/05; Hawaii; 414 ha; 21°24′N 157°45′W. State Wildlife Sanctuary. Sacred to Hawaiians, Kawainui Marsh, the largest remaining emergent wetland in Hawaii and Hawaii’s largest ancient freshwater fishpond, is located in what was once the center of a caldera of the Koolau shield volcano. The marsh provides primary habitat for four of Hawaii’s endemic and endangered waterbirds, including Laysan Duck and Hawaiian Goose or Nene, and contains archaeological and cultural resources, including ancient walled taro water gardens (lo’i) where fish were also cultivated. Kawainui Marsh stores surface water, providing flood protection for adjacent Kailua town, one of the largest towns on the windward side of O’ahu. Hamakua Marsh is a smaller wetland historically connected to and immediately downstream of Kawainui Marsh, which also provides significant habitat for several of Hawaii’s endemic and endangered waterbirds. Ramsar site no. 1460. Most recent RIS information: 2005.
Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. 01/04/11; Hawaii; 204,127 ha; 05°52′N 162°06′W. Coral reefs, permanent shallow marine waters, and intertidal forested wetlands of the atoll and submerged lands and associated waters out to 12 nautical miles from it, in the equatorial Pacific 960 miles south of Honolulu. A National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) since 2001, the site supports a variety of species with different conservation status under the National Endangered Species Act and IUCN Red List, such as the Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi), Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), and Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). It is also an important feeding and nesting ground for seabirds like the Red-footed Booby (Sula sula), with the third largest colony in the world, and it sustains approximately 5% of the total population of the Bristle-thighed Curlew (Numenius tahitiensis). As a National Wildlife Refuge, the site is closed to public use without a permit issued by the manager, but scientific research and CEPA activities are coordinated between the US Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy along with the Palmyra Atoll Research Consortium. Threats include the presence of invasive species like the scale (Pulvinaria urbicola), which is responsible for the recent decline in the Pisonia grandis forest coverage. A conservation plan is under development and expected to be completed in 2012. Ramsar Site no. 1971. Most recent RIS information: 2011. [français | español]
- State Wetland Managers
- Regional Supplements to Corps Delineation Manual
- Association of State Wetland Managers – Protecting the Nation’s Wetlands – Federal Links