Hawaii has always held a special place in the heart of International Bridge. Anybody that has ever been to the islands, understands the beauty and serenity of the islands. For us, the meaning is even deeper. As our largest operational facility is located in Honolulu, our staff and partners in the area work every day to instill the Aloha spirit in the rest of the organization.
And, we work every day delivering packages to areas of the islands that other shippers tend to shy away from. So it was second nature for us to find a project that made the islands more sustainable during our annual management meetings in 2013. We know as a company that even the little things we do can have great impact. And that in order to instill this value within the organization, the management team has to lead by example.
In the very early hours of February 12, 2013, the management team of International Bridge along with several of the team members from our Hawaiian operations loaded on a plane at the Honolulu airport for a quick flight to the Big Island. So why would a group of 17 people from all around the world who had just held strategy meetings be on a 5am flight to the Big Island? The answer could be found at the Volcano National Park as today the team was going to help rid part of the forest of an invasive species of ginger that has been known to devastate Hawaiian forests across the islands.
So after arriving in Hilo at 5:49am and grabbing a quick breakfast, the team was off to the Volcano National Forest. Our first stop was the Kilauea Visitor Center where we met our guide for the day, Mark Wasser. Mark is a botanist for the National Park Service and he spent time getting the team trained on park safety and the pruning process. Finally, we traveled deep into the woods of the park and spent the rest of the morning helping rid the forest of this ginger.
The Park Service and specifically the team of Sierra McDanial and Mark Wasser at the Hawaii Volcano National Park were instrumental in putting this project together for International Bridge. As part of the parks Vegetation Program, this team coordinated our activities, provided the proper training, and made the day educational and productive.
The Cost of Invasive Species in Hawaii?
Economic (direct & indirect)
- Agricultural revenues = $300 million/year
- Miconia in 2001 = Over $3 million
- Salvinia = Over $1 million
- Termite damage in 1995 = $150 million/year
- Cost of safeguarding tourism = Priceless ($18.9 billion at risk from biting sand flies, malaria and more)
Loss of Ecosystem Services
- Reduced volume and reliability of freshwater flow associated with invasive trees
- Potential for reduced watershed capacity and increased erosion and runoff
Loss of Native Species
- Over 80% of endangered plants in Hawaii are threatened by invasive species
- Ecosystems are interdependent. Decline or loss of one member has a huge impact on others
Why is the Hawaiian EcoSystem so Fragile?
Island ecosystems, such as those found in Hawai‘i, are very susceptible to damage caused by humans and the non-native plants and animals they bring with them. More native species have been eliminated in Hawai‘i than anywhere else in the United States and in most places of the world. While habitat loss has caused extinction and endangerment, non-native species have also contributed to major ecosystem damage and are now the main cause of loss of biodiversity in Hawai‘i. We are all the stewards (caretakers) of the ‘āina (land) and it is our kuleana (responsibility) to protect it.
What is Wrong with Ginger?
Kāhili Ginger is unfortunately an extremely invasive plant and tends to grow quickly, choking out other native plants. The word kāhili means, among other things, the feather standard (large bunch of feathers on top of a tall staff) used in the presence of royalty. Each plant is about 5 or 6 feet tall with beautiful deep blue-green leaves. The leaves are very long and broad and radiate out from the base.
How Did this Non-Native Species Get to an Island?
Kāhili Ginger is native to the Himalayas, and it is unknown when it was brought to Hawai'i. It almost certainly came over as an ornamental and quickly escaped local gardens.
How is this Problem Solved?
Ginger is seasonal in Hawai'i and starts blooming in August and continues into the fall. The flower head, when cut, lasts several days in water. Because this is an extremely invasive plant, it should be destroyed when found. Since the plant grows from a bulb the entire bulb must be removed from the ground to be properly killed, a very labor-intensive job. The strategy, and one that seems to work, is to cut the plants down to nearly ground level and then periodically keep cutting the new shoots off with a weed eater (before they are 12 inches tall). Repeating this for a year kills around 90% of the plants.
For More Information
The following links have been provided for your convenience and will open up a new browser window when you click a link. By linking to these sites, International Bridge does not implicitly provide any specific endorsement of the content provided therein.
National Parks – Our Partners
National Parks, Exploring Nature
About Instant Hawaii
The Mālama ‘Āina Foundation
Invasive Hawaiian Plants
More on Invasive Hawaiian Plants