This four acre coastal wetland, with adjacent mudflats and nearshore reefs, located at the mouth of Pearl Harbor on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) provides the opportunity to integrate conservation, community and the Navy’s mission.
Comprehensive conservation efforts over the past five years at Āhua Reef are targeted to build a resilient ecosystem that increases storm water retention, boosts coastal strength and increases waterbird nesting habitat. Volunteer events to restore Āhua Reef also serve as a platform to educate and converse with local community members regarding all projects undertaken by Navy Natural Resources team ranging from invasive species management to wildlife conservation. Check them out in our field notes.
Volunteer events to restore Āhua Reef also serve as a platform to educate and converse with local community members regarding all projects undertaken by Navy Natural Resources ranging from invasive species management to wildlife conservation.
Brown Tree Snake, Boiga irregularis
The Brown Tree Snake (BTS) is an arboreal rear-fanged colubrid snake that has decimated large portions of native bird populations in Guam. If the BTS were introduced to Hawai’i it would pose a severe risk to Hawai’i’s ecosystem, recreation and electrical infrastructure. The response effort on O’ahu is headed by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) and has partnered with JBPHH Natural Resource team to ensure early detection and a rapid response.
Coconut Rhinocerous Beetle, Oryctes rhinoceros
First detected on O’ahu in December 2014, the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros, CRB) is a pest of Coconut Palms with the potential to threaten native palm species and agricultural crops, and cause considerable damage to O’ahu’s tourism industry if populations spread throughout the island. Eradication efforts are led by HDOA with support from the Navy, include deploying and maintaining traps and destruction of potential breeding sites.
Naio Thrips, Klambothrips myopori
Naio thrips are a pest of native Naio and and Naio papa (Myoporum sandwicense), which occur in both dry and wet forest habitats as well as coastal communities throughout O’ahu, and populate JBPHH both as ornamental landscaping (Naio papa) and common wetland plants (Naio). Naio thrips were detected on Hawai’i island in 2008. In late November 2018, Naio thrips were detected at Bishop Museum, marking the first detection of the species on O’ahu. A rapid response was initiated, where Field Biologists surveyed and collected samples from known Naio populations on Navy property.
Green Sea Turtle Nesting Surveys, Chelonia mydas
Hawaiian Green sea turtles are a distinct and threatened population protected under the Endangered Species Act. They are common in and around Pearl Harbor where they forage and mate. The endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) also occurs in the Hawaiian Islands, but is rare to O’ahu.
Pueo Surveys, Asio flammeus sandwichensis
JBPHH properties include several areas of potential habitat for the Hawai’i state-listed Endangered Short-eared owl, known locally as a Pueo. JBPHH Biologists survey these areas regularly and research is underway through a cooperative agreement with the University of Hawai’i to better understand Pueo use of Navy lands in regard to their breeding behavior and seasonal variations in behavior/presence.
JBPHH is home to three federally endangered water birds; Hawaiian Stilt (Ae’o/Himantopus mexicanus knudseni), Hawaiian Coot (‘Alae ke’oke’o/Fulica alai), and Hawaiian Moorhen (‘Alae ‘ula/Gallinuala chlorpus sandwicensis); as well as several species of migratory shorebirds and migratory waterfowl protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Both Stilts and Coots have been observed nesting on JBPHH property. Waterbird surveys on JBPHH focus on eight wetland/shoreline locations on Navy land.
Wildlife Emergency Response
An emergency phone line allows anyone to report unusual, injured or dead wildlife sightings. Common calls involve hauled out Hawaiian Monk Seals (Neomonachus schauinslandi), entangled/dead Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas), Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) within Pearl Harbor as well as disoriented Wedge-Tailed Shearwaters (Puffinus pacificus). Field Biologists help respond to calls, offer boots on the ground support and work with the harbor control tower to ensure wildlife receives the help and/or space they need and community members remain safe and informed.
Restoration efforts at Āhua Reef are helping to create storm water retention boosting coastal strength and increasing waterbird nesting habitat.
|Storm Water Retention||Wetlands help prevent flooding by temporarily storing and slowly releasing storm water. This ecosystem service was less effective when the area was overtaken by invasive pickleweed (Batis maritima) and kiawe (prosopis pallida).||A wide diversity of native outplants now thrive in the area and help reduce water flow and support beneficial biofilm; together they act as a filter system, to remove sediments and pollutants from the water.|
|Coastal Strength||The red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) was introduced in Hawaii in 1902 to help strengthen the coastline. Unfortunately, with no native vascular plants using the same habitat, areas now hosting mangrove forests are often monotypic.||Native Hawaiian plants, like mangroves, have complex root structures which stabilize the coastline. Unlike mangroves, when native plants predominate in a coastal wetlands there is an increase in plant biodiversity.|
|Increased Waterbird Nesting Habitat||Few birds visited Āhua Reef Wetland before restoration efforts began.||With the removal of invasive flora, predator trapping and restriction of domestic pets, endangered Ae’o are now wetland residents. Their neighbors include kōlea (Pluvialis fulva), 'Akekeke (Arenaria interpres) and ‘Auku’u (Nycticorax nycticorax).|