Lava flows damage forest reserve, threatening native species

Updated: Jun. 4, 2018 at 1:52 PM HST
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PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Although volcanic activity has only affected a small amount of forest area, authorities are concerned the wildlife unique to the region may be in danger.

The Department of Land and Natural resources says as much as half of the Malama Ki Forest Reserve has been impacted by ongoing volcanic activity, endangering native flora and fauna.

According to a news release, the 1,514-acre forest is home to several species of birds, including the Hawaiian honeycreeper, the Hawaii amakihi and apapane.

"These remnant and sub-populations of wildlife may no longer persist, rapidly decline, or become further fragmented and/or contract in range," said Steve Bergfeld, the Branch Manager of the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, in the release.

The department has not yet been able to accurately assess the forest, but site visits have revealed that a lot of the vegetation downwind of the eruption is dead. Officials say birds and wildlife are OK in areas upwind of the lava flow.

Foresters say research on things like disease tolerance and sub-population genetics will also be affected in the area.

Wild fires, ignited by lava flows, have also damaged at least 200 acres of Malama Ki. Kilauea's impact on the area's forest and feral animals may largely reduce the reserve's attraction as a year-round public hunting area.

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