Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Restoring Paradise

Restoring Paradise: Rethinking and Rebuilding Nature in Hawai`i

Robert J. Cabin
Copyright Date: 2013
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Restoring Paradise
    Book Description:

    "Bob Cabin has that rare gift of a scientist who writes like a novelist. The tale he tells is not so much about science as it is about courageous people-many of them dedicated volunteers-who are responding in very personal ways to environmental crises. These are people who are restoring impaired Hawaiian ecosystems in a heroic effort to recover Nature. Cabin, who has logged many hours as a restoration practitioner himself, explains that we can't always return Hawai'i's fabled ecosystems back to the way they were in the past. Instead, he recovers as much as possible of the remaining native biodiversity and gives Nature the opportunity to reinvent itself in a contemporary expression. The story Cabin tells is one of fulfillment as Hawaiians engage directly in natural processes as if they were part of their own evolving ecosystems-and indeed they are." ?Andre Clewell, Restoration Ecologist and President Emeritus, Society for Ecological Restoration"Robert Cabin's book achieves a bold description and critique of efforts over the past four decades toward conservation/restoration of what's left of native biological diversity in the Hawaiian Islands. He does a good job of articulating why this enterprise is a noble one but not so easy. Focusing on major and still evolving relative 'success stories,' Cabin's narrative is lively while sometimes sharply critical of conservation science's worthy efforts." -Lloyd Loope, Research Biologist and Program Leader (retired), Haleakala Field Station, MauiThree quarters of the U.S.'s bird and plant extinctions have occurred in Hawai'i, and one third of the country's threatened and endangered birds and plants reside within the state. Yet despite these alarming statistics, all is not lost: There are still 12,000 extant species unique to the archipelago and new species are discovered every year. InRestoring Paradise: Rethinking and Rebuilding Nature in Hawai'i,Robert Cabin shows why current attempts to preserve Hawai'i's native fauna and flora require embracing the emerging paradigm of ecological restoration-the science and art of assisting the recovery of degraded species and ecosystems and creating more meaningful and sustainable relationships between people and nature.Cabin's extensive experience as a research ecologist and applied practitioner enables him to provide a rare, behind-the-scenes look at successful and inspiring restoration programs. In Part 1 he recounts Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge's efforts to restore thousands of acres of degraded pasture on the island of Hawai'i back to the native rain forests that once dominated the area and sheltered native birds now on the brink of extinction. Along the way, he presents an overview of Hawaiian natural and cultural history, biogeography, and evolutionary biology. Following chapters look at restoration work underway by the U.S. Park Service to reestablish native species within the vast Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park; by a charismatic scientist and dedicated volunteers to restore the native forests of Auwahi on the southern slopes of Haleakala; and by the Limahuli branch of Kauai's National Tropical Botanical Garden to revive a thousand-year-old taro plantation. To investigate the compelling and often conflicting philosophies and strategies of those involved in restoration, Cabin opens Part 3 with interview excerpts from a cross-section of Hawai'i's environmental community. He concludes with a provocative and insightful discussion of the contentious, evolving relationship between humans and nature and the power and limitations of science within and beyond Hawai'i.Robert J. Cabinis associate professor of ecology and environmental science at Brevard College. Before returning to academia, he worked as a restoration ecologist in Hawai'i for the U.S. Forest Service and the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3907-9
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  4. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Restoring a Rainbow
    (pp. xvii-xxxii)

    “Whenever I give a conservation-oriented talk,” a senior colleague once told me, “regardless of where I am, when I ask who in the audience has had firsthand experience with extinction, virtually everyone who raises their hand winds up talking about Hawai‘i.” What happened to thepo‘ouliis a particularly dramatic example of one such Hawaiian extinction story. This stocky, secretive, sparrow-sized honeycreeper was discovered in 1973 by three University of Hawai‘i students in a remote high-elevation rain forest on East Maui. Thepo‘ouli’s appearance and behavior were so unique that it was eventually placed into its own taxonomic category. Among...


      (pp. 3-18)

      I dashed throughthe pounding rain into the Ford Bronco, turned the wipers and defrosters on high, and headed out for another day of research at the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge. Although this refuge is only about fourteen miles northwest of Hilo, I knew it would take me over two hours to get there due to the rain, fog, and primitive roads. When I added in another forty-five minutes of driving within the refuge to get into and out of my field site and the hour and a half round-trip journey from my home in Volcano Village to the...

      (pp. 19-36)

      Shortly after finallyemerging from the worst of the gorse infestation, I turned onto another rough road that took me to the entrance gate of the Hakalau Forest Refuge. I shut off the engine and jumped out, eager to inhale fresh mountain air after the long, bone-rattling drive in our moldy truck. The outside world was perfectly still, and the dew on the tall pasture grasses sparkled in the morning sunlight. The thick clouds over Hilo were beginning to break, and behind them were reassuring blue skies over the ocean for as far as I could see. I turned toward...

      (pp. 37-49)

      I drove pastthenēnēand slowly began my descent through the refuge’s degraded pastures along a winding and rutted dirt road that led to my prospective research site some 1,500 feet below. Except for the occasional forlorn remnant koa or‘ōhi‘atree and clump of native ferns, these pastures were mostly one big amorphous mass of deceptively innocuous-sounding alien grasses such as kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum), meadow rice grass (Ehrharta stipoides), sweet vernal grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum), and velvet grass (Holcus lanatus). But inevitably, just when I would start to feel that the grand vision of restoring all those miles of...

    • 4 LAULIMA
      (pp. 50-66)

      Five months later,I drove back up to Hakalau to recensus my experimental nurse logs. I was hoping to find at least a few new seedlings among the 2,970 different spots into which we had sown a seed or transplanted an‘ōhi‘aseedling, but as I walked from one barren plot to the next I found that little had changed since my previous visit one month earlier. Although I knew that many Native Hawaiian species were notoriously slow to germinate and establish even under ideal greenhouse conditions, I couldn’t help wondering why so few of my seeds had sprouted. Could...

      (pp. 67-80)

      Over the nextfew years, Don, Alan, several Native Hawaiian Forest Service interns, students, volunteers, colleagues, and I collectively spent many hundreds of hours working on that Nurse Log Experiment. In retrospect, I believe we learned a tremendous amount from performing that research, talking amongst ourselves and with the many other people we encountered along the way, and perhaps most importantly, simply spending time together in the field.

      In the end, however, luck was not on our side. Perhaps due in part to the extended drought that occurred throughout much of that experiment, relatively few of our seeds ever germinated...


    • 6 KILL AND RESTORE: Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
      (pp. 83-101)

      Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park(HVNP) literally became my backyard after I moved to Volcano Village in 1997. I came to know and love the park’s spectacular 323,431 acres (an area comprising over 12 percent of the Big Island and nearly 8 percent of the entire state) through many subsequent hiking, running, and camping adventures. I also participated in professional activities there, such as helping other scientists with their research, conducting VIP tours, and contributing to resource management advisory sessions. Over time, I developed close relationships with some of the park’s employees and came to increasingly appreciate their accomplishments and dedication...

    • 7 THE PŪ‘OLĒ‘OLĒ BLOWS: Dry Forest Restoration at Auwahi, Maui
      (pp. 102-129)

      In the botanicalliterature, Auwahi refers to a centrally located, 5,400-acre subsection of the southwestern rift of the Haleakalā Volcano on East Maui at an elevation of three to five thousand feet. Auwahi has been translated as “smoky glow” and “milk of fire,” and the region is honored in an early Hawaiian song that begins, “Hot is Auwahi/Glowing, the lava of Hanaka‘ie‘ie.”

      The famous botanist Joseph Rock identified the remnant dry forests at Auwahi and North Kona on the Big Island as the two botanically richest regions in the entire territory of Hawai‘i. The tragic story of the subsequent devastation...

    • 8 TURNING HANDS: Limahuli Botanical Garden, Kaua‘i
      (pp. 130-164)

      Although all myfilthy clothes were still spinning in the washing machine, I couldn’t stay inside any longer. The night was too inviting; the gurgling stream beneath my window too tantalizing; the moonlight filtering down through the branches of the swaying breadfruit trees too hypnotic. “What the heck,” I finally told myself as I tentatively stepped outside stark naked, “I’ll never get a chance to do this again.”

      Outside, the heavy sea air was warm, moist, and salty. I stood on the steps, listening to the frogs croak and making sure the coast was clear. Satisfied, I stepped off the...

    • Color plates
      (pp. None)

      (pp. 167-186)

      What makes peoplededicate their lives to preserving and restoring Hawai‘i’s remaining native species and ecosystems? Despite their seemingly common causes and struggles, why is there so much contention and even animosity among some of the individuals within Hawai‘i’s larger environmental community?

      To explore these kinds of topics, I conducted extensive interviews with a diverse group of people working in Hawai‘i’s environmentally related academic, conservation, education, regulatory, resource management, and scientific research communities. In addition to our typically far-ranging, general discussions, I asked each interviewee four overarching questions:

      1. Why do you care about biodiversity in general and Hawai‘i’s native species...

      (pp. 187-214)

      In 1989, theenvironmental journalist Bill McKibben publishedThe End of Nature. In this best-selling and influential book, he explained, “By the end of nature I do not mean the end of the world. The rain will still fall and the sun shine, though differently than before. When I say ‘nature,’ I mean a certain set of human ideas about the world and our place in it.” For McKibben, the nail in nature’s coffin was human-induced climate change: “We have changed the atmosphere and thus we are changing the weather. By changing the weather, we make every spot on the...

    (pp. 215-226)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 227-238)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 239-241)