The Potential for Indigenous Resource Management to Aid in Recovery of Endangered Hawaiian Waterbirds

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Conventional conservation practices often separate people from landscapes, assuming that minimal human interaction is optimal for recovery of endangered species. However, conservation practices that are based on social-ecological frameworks may be more successful than exclusionary conservation practices, as they are more likely to encompass working landscapes and the people in them, thus increasing social support. Indigenous agroecosystems are social-ecological systems that have received growing attention as tools for preserving biodiversity. Following the arrival of Polynesians to Hawai‘i, lowland forests and alluvial plains were converted into flooded-fields (lo‘i) for cultivation of taro and other resources, which greatly expanded wetland habitat used by waterbirds. Restoration of lo‘i through Indigenous resource management practices may aid in the recovery of endangered, native waterbirds, which are threatened by the loss of available nesting habitat from rising sea levels. In this study, we are using existing GIS layers to spatially and quantitatively map (1) the area of potential waterbird habitat in Hawai‘i likely to be lost due to sea level rise by the year 2100; and (2) the area of potential waterbird habitat in Hawai‘i that may be regained through restoration of lo‘i.