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I Ka Wā Ma Mua: The Value of a Historical Ecology Approach to Ecological Restoration in Hawai‘i 1

Kurashima, Natalie, Jeremiah, Jason, Ticktin, and Tamara
Pacific science 2017 v.71 no.4 pp. 437-456
biodiversity, case studies, ecological restoration, ecosystems, humans, indigenous peoples, interviews, landscapes, space and time
Human activity has altered nearly every landscape on earth, and ecological restoration to repair degraded ecosystems has become a conservation necessity. Hawai‘i is a microcosm for intense landscape change, where levels of native biodiversity and threats to it are among the highest in the world, and where Kānaka Maoli (Hawai‘i's indigenous people), who stewarded these lands for a millennium, currently face massive inequalities. Consequently, biocultural restoration has emerged as a method to reciprocally restore ecological and cultural integrity and is especially applicable in Hawai‘i's sizeable invasivedominated areas. Since Kānaka Maoli are an inseparable part of every land and seascape in Hawai‘i, any ecological restoration project has the potential to use a biocultural restoration approach. However, most restoration approaches are purely ecological, and for many conservation practitioners a sociocultural understanding of the landscape can seem inaccessible. In this article, we discuss the value of a historical ecology approach (understanding the interaction between people and landscapes over time) for successful restoration and management of biocultural landscapes in Hawai‘i. We use a case study in Kahalu‘u, Kona, to outline historical ecology methods and available resources in Hawai‘i, including written documents, maps, imagery, archaeological studies, and interviews, and discuss applications of this approach on-the-ground. Potential benefits of employing this approach include expanding knowledge of reference conditions, understanding practices contributing to landscape function over space and time, and building meaningful relationships to engaging community around a site. We argue that a historical ecology approach is readily adoptable into ecological restoration in Hawai‘i, especially in its human-dominated landscapes.