The Hawai'i Resilient Lands and Waters Partnership encompasses three discrete locations across the Hawaiian Islands, including West Hawaii, West Maui, and the He'eia Watershed of O'ahu. It is led by the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative (PICCC).
This project aimed to demonstrate the benefits of landscape-scale approaches to conservation and management that contribute to climate resilience by building upon existing collaborative inter-agency partnerships on three of the main Hawaiian Islands. These robust partnerships have been working to protect and restore ecosystems by reducing threats such as invasive species, land-based pollution, and wildfire. The goal under this Initiative was to further develop a Federal partners' toolbox from the PICCC, NOAA, and EPA, aiming to coalesce collective products and services to augment the on-the-ground efforts already occurring.
The first step in articulating what needs to be done to enhance the resilience of Hawai'i's landscapes was identifying key organizations and partnerships working in the selected areas, followed by visually organizing past and current conservation and scientific efforts. More than 130 individuals from organizations working throughout Hawai'i's RLW sites were contacted in an effort to document past and ongoing resilience activities. Approximately 50 people from over 40 organizations provided information regarding their respective organizations, such as their goals, plans, actions, partnerships, and publications, as well as the consideration of climate change in their operations. Using data available online and through personal communication, initial base maps were created using the DataBasin platform, outlining RLW boundaries, the organizations functioning within these boundaries, and the activities being carried out related to climate change resilience.
The second step in the Hawai'i RLW project involved reviewing current climate change science for each of the three RLW sites, and utilizing this information to outline potential modifications to conservation work already being done, which would create greater resiliency across the land and ocean environments. A list of specific climate change impacts was developed for each site, accompanied by a list of organizations currently considering these impacts in their conservation and management efforts. Next, a list of potential modifications to current actions was drafted and accompanied by current scientific findings pertaining to each climate change impact. Lastly, examples of actions and strategic plans being implemented across the globe were compiled to illustrate the feasibility of implementing modifications. Completing this product required an extensive literature review detailing current research and findings pertaining to the impacts of climate change in and around islands, with specific focus on the Hawaiian Islands. This review led to the identification of the main environmental areas impacted by climate change in the three RLW sites. For the categorization of impacted areas, the literature review was again utilized to identify specific impacts resulting from climate change for each area in the landscape. With this information, strategic plans for partnerships and organizations working in each of the three RLW sites were reviewed to note which were currently addressing any of the listed climate change impacts in the delineated areas. The results of this review, included climate change impacts, potential modifications to management actions, and exemplary remedies for climate change issues were shared with the partnerships working in the landscapes for their review. Many organizations and partnerships provided feedback in the form of updated reports, strategic plans, scientific studies, outreach material, and mapping data.
The RLW project identified over 10 key partnerships composed of federal, state and non-profit organizations working within the Hawai'i RLW sites on natural resource management and conservation. Besides identifying the key players across the landscapes, mapping their efforts was a strategic tool that will be used for years to come to highlight gaps in knowledge and potential areas for combining efforts. Whether through research and monitoring of an ecosystem or species, collaboration between organizations with common goals, measuring efficiency of an ecosystem service, or education of human inhabitants to enhance understanding and awareness of their surroundings, this mapping tool is and will continue to be an invaluable asset when it comes to building climate change resilience in Hawai'i.
Another significant product from the RLW project in Hawai'i is an up-to-date list of scientific findings across the Hawaiian landscapes to demonstrate the current knowledge regarding each issue, from coral reef health to anchialine pool species composition to invasive species removal. By identifying who is working across the RLW sites, what they are doing specifically, how operations can be improved to increase resilience, and distributing this information far and wide, organizations and partnerships will be able to communicate best practices and efforts locally and between the islands.
By identifying current efforts outlined in conservation actions plans, partnership agreements, community outreach programs, etc., leaders within the respective communities whether scientific, governmental, or grass roots may learn how to improve upon their own entities efforts towards enhancing resilience. The information provided in the Storymap also demonstrates examples of resilience activities in specific ecosystems and regions that may be mimicked and potentially implemented in like circumstances elsewhere. The Hawaiian Islands are immensely variable not only between islands but even within each individual island; microclimates and subregions create very different issues with unique consequences and solutions. In light of this, landscape scale solutions that may often work for a landscape in the contiguous United States may be less relevant at the small scales seen in Hawai'i or other island regions. The Storymap offers a platform where organizations and partnerships can learn from others' successes and mistakes.
The Hawai'i Storymap was created so that the information gathered and generated throughout the RLW Initiative in Hawaii will live on past the completion of the project for organizations and partnerships to utilize and build upon. The Storymap offers information about resilience on a nationwide level and at the local scale. Pages within the Storymap detail the current efforts across the islands to enhance resilience not only in the landscapes but throughout the community. The key deliverables of this project are:
- An overall report of the Hawai'i RLW initiative and results.
- An online ESRI Storymap which details the nature of the RLW nationwide and highlights the specific efforts in Hawai'i.
- Current scientific findings regarding climate change, and suggested actions which partnerships can take to increase resilience, for each of the three RLW sites.
- Maps and accessible data files of resilience activities throughout the three sites.
Challenges throughout this process included: making contact with organization leads; timely and complete information requests; delineating organization boundaries/duties and overlaps; attempting to engage each and every partnership working in the RLW sites and identifying all projects and plans currently being enacted in these areas.
- Organizations may be doing resilience activities without knowing it
- Many organizations have not yet integrated climate change into their plans
- Even within a small geography like Hawai'i, organizations are often unaware of others doing similar activities
- Based on proximity and project type, organizations may be able to combine efforts to increase impact and potentially decrease costs
- Many organizations are already performing actions across the landscapes that are addressing one or more impacts of climate change
- Some of the climate change impacts are beyond control or scope of the organizations/partnerships
- Many existing organizational/partnership plans are not up-to-date with scientific findings
- There are numerous areas where efforts to address climate change impacts are overlapping, however there are also areas where they aren't being addressed at all
- Face-to-face meetings with organization leads
- Site visits to understand the breadth of work being done
- Simple and easy survey questions
- Reaching out to collaborators already working with partnerships in the RLW sites to initiate contact with partnership leads
- Maintaining constant and clear contact with collaborating agencies (EPA, NOAA)