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Economic Currents

Keep up to date with the latest UHERO news.

Makena Coffman appointed to Climate Change Commission

UHERO congratulates Makena Coffman on her appointment to Honolulu's Climate Change Commission. The goal of the commission is to assess potential impacts of climate change on Hawaii, and to provide policy makers with recommendations to address these impacts.

Makena Coffman is the co-director of Project Environment, UHERO Research Fellow, and Professor of Urban and Regional Planning.

Bringing multiple values to the table in local decision making – NSF Coastal SEES

“Want to carry one up?” the natural resource management team with Limahuli gardens in Haʻēna, Kauaʻi asks us as they hand out potted endangered plant seedlings before our hike up the trail toward one of their native forest restoration areas. We arrive 30 minutes later to the first restoration plot and are amazed to see an oasis of diverse native plants in a broader sea of mostly non-native forest. Restoration like this provides many benefits including biodiversity, cultural value, watershed protection, but it can also be expensive. Limahuli gardens, like so many natural resource managers around the State, face decisions around where and how to invest limited conservation resources. In an effort to cost-effectively restore a larger area of forest that provides a suite of ecological and cultural (ie biocultural) benefits, managers at Limahuli are pioneering careful consideration of multiple restoration strategies, including hybrid restoration with native and culturally useful non-invasive introduced species.

Limahuli restoration area

On the other side of the Hawaiian Islands, we have the rare opportunity to spend time in the Kaʻūpūlehu dry forest restoration project in North Kona, Hawaiʻi Island, a highly successful community-based effort to restore the most threatened ecosystem in the world. Many of the community members who work here are from cattle ranching families. They see tremendous value in mixed use landscapes including native forest and pasturelands, but worry about encroaching urban development. In this context, landowners across the State, including Kamehameha Schools, face decisions about the future of pasturelands, including the right mix of continued pasture, forest restoration and other land use options like coffee or restoring to agroforestry (a once prominent land use in the region).

NSF Coastal SEES team members Tamara Ticktin and Shimona Quazi enjoy the smell of blooming Aiea plants in the Kaʻūpūlehu dry forest.

Measuring keiki recruits in the stewarded dry forest.

Pasture bordering forest in high elevation areas in Kaʻūpūlehu

Real-world decision contexts like these have spurred a growing body of research striving to shine light on the ways that land management decisions influence societal well-being. Huge strides have been made to operationalize inclusion of the ‘value’ of land into decision making. Yet, this body of work largely remains siloed between those focusing on the biophysical and monetary values and those focusing more broadly on socio-cultural values. This division precludes a pluralistic set of values being included in decision-making in a meaningful way.

Over the past 3 years, UHERO, through an NSF Coastal SEES project – “Linking local ecological knowledge, ecosystem services, and community resilience to environmental and climate change in Pacific Islands”—has been part of a transdisciplinary team of researchers who have worked closely with landowners and communities in several study sites, including Haʻēna and Kaʻūpūlehu to bridge this divide.

In Haʻēna we worked alongside Limahuli reserve manager, Kawika Winter and his staff, to explore the costs and benefits of 3 restoration strategies: 1) restore to a state before rats were introduced (pre-rat); 2) restore to a pre-European state; and 3) restore using a mix of native and culturally useful non-invasive introduced species (hybrid scenario). Within each scenario, we evaluated the restoration costs alongside the benefits in terms of native and endemic species of plants restored, resilience (measured by functional diversity), and cultural value of plants restored. Cultural value was assessed based on a framework of past and current use based on community workshops and the long-term experience of managers working in the area. Interestingly, we found that the hybrid scenario provides important ecological benefits in terms of restoring a resilient mix of native species while also supporting a variety of culturally useful plants at a cost much lower than the other restoration strategies. While conservation of endangered species requires additional strategies, hybrid restoration offers a cost-effective way of scaling up restoration that can also provide important cultural and community benefits.

Variation in environmental and cultural benefits across three different restoration scenarios.

In Kaʻūpūlehu, we worked alongside Kamehameha Schools and the Kaʻūpūlehu community to evaluate potential futures of pastureland. We considered the management costs and environmental (biodiversity, groundwater recharge, fire risk), cultural, and economic outcomes of four future land use scenarios on a large cattle ranch: 1) retain pasture; 2) restore native forest; 3) restore agroforest; and 4) convert to coffee. Unsurprisingly we found that no one land use was the best on all metrics assessed, and that cultural value (assessed using participatory, deliberative methods and an indigenous cultural values framework) was very high in all land uses except for coffee (which is not an important land use in the immediate area). Similar to Haʻēna, we found that the agroforestry scenario (a hybrid forest) offered the greatest potential in terms of multiple benefits, including economic return. Yet, it is pasture which currently provides some of the highest cultural value in terms of local knowledge and cultural connection to place. Rather than providing clear answers to Kamehameha Schools about the “best” way forward, our research provided a way to bring multiple values, including cultural and environmental values, to the table in a concrete way.

Tradeoffs and synergies among different values with land use options in North Kona.

Integrating and including diverse values into decision-making is challenging, but critically needed around the world. We see no better place than Hawaiʻi to continue to work with on-the-ground managers to move this forward to contribute to more sustainable and resilient decisions. As an extension of our work in Kaʻūpūlehu and Haʻēna, we are now collaborating with a local non-profit Kakōʻo ʻŌiwi in Heʻeia Oʻahu to consider the multiple benefits of loʻi restoration through time. More to come!

Note: The NSF Coastal SEES project Principal Investigators were: Tamara Ticktin (UHM Botany), Kim Burnett (UHERO), Alan Friedlander (UHM Biology and National Geographic), Tom Giambelluca (UHM Geography), Stacy Jupiter (Wildlife Conservation Society -Fiji), Mehana Vaughan (UHM NREM), Kawika Winter (National Tropical Botanical Garden), Lisa Mandle (Natural Capital Project, Stanford), and Heather McMillen (NREM). Special thanks also to project researchers and graduate students who carried out much of this work, including Puaʻala Pascua, Shimona Quazi, Natalie Kurashima, and Christopher Wada. Finally, we are grateful to our community and landowner partners in Kaʻūpūlehu and Haʻēna who made this project possible.

- Leah Bremer 
UHERO and Water Resources Research Center Assistant Specialist


Cost-Effectiveness of Herbicide Ballistic Technology to Control Miconia in Hawaii

UHERO is working with Dr. James Leary (CTAHR) to assess cost effectiveness of Herbicide Ballistic Technology (HBT) operations to control invasive miconia (Miconia calvescens) plants before reaching maturity. Based on studies in Costa Rica, Tahiti and Australia, we can interpret spatial and temporal implications of management driven by miconia’s fecundity, dispersal, seed bank longevity and recruitment. We find that the dispersal kernel of miconia in the East Maui Watershed is closely matched to a similar probability density function developed from miconia naturalized in North Queensland, Australia (Fletcher and Westcott 2013). In this spatial model, 99% of recruitment was within 609 m with rare stochastic events (i.e., 1%) extending out to 1644 m. Based on these biological features, one autogamous, mature plant can impact up to 850 ha (i.e., 2100 acres) of forested watershed with hundreds to thousands of dispersed progeny germinating asynchronously over several decades (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. The dispersal kernel displays as a raster layer creating an 850-ha area calculation with corresponding probability density function (color shades).

Effective management is achieved when target mortality outpaces biological recruitment. Cacho et al. (2007) coined the term ‘‘mortality factor’’ described by the simple equation: m=Pd x Pk, where the probabilities of detection (Pd ) and kill (Pk)are equal determinants of the “mortality” product. Our current Pk is 0.98 for all HBT treatments. With this effective and reliable treatment technique, management outcomes largely depend on detection (Leary et al. 2013; Lodge et al. 2006). Koopman (1946) introduced the mathematical framework for estimating the probability of detection: Pd=1-e-c, where the probability of detection asymptotically approaches 1.0 with increasing coverage (Fig. 2). In operations, imperfect detection can be compensated by frequent interventions compounding coverage levels over time, but with obvious diminishing returns (Leary et al. 2014).

Figure 2. Probability of detection (blue) and the inverse for the equally important confirmation of no targets (orange). Note gray dash connotation of a theoretically “perfect” sensor, where coverage is equal to detection and confirmation.

The variable costs for HBT operations (e.g., flight time and projectiles) are driven by target density (Leary et al 2013, Leary et al. 2014). With that knowledge, we estimate the cost to manage the area (i.e., 850 ha) impacted by the dispersal of new progeny created by a mature plant. A new mature miconia with two panicles may produce ~300-400 progeny. With a single, incipient target being such a high risk, intensive efforts should be matched to comprehensively search the entire impact area over the several decades with a level probability of detection (and equal confirmation of no targets) of all progeny recruits. For instance, with 320 propagules dispersed, Pd would need to exceed 0.9968 with coverage at 5.77 s per 100 m2 pixel totaling ~136 hours of effort over the entire impact area over four decades (Fig. 3A). Any level of coverage less than that (including 99%) would be prone to missing a target that ultimately reaches maturity and newly replenishes the seed bank (Fig. 3B). Furthermore, an overwhelming majority of search effort would actually be dedicated to the confirmation of no targets, where, for instance 87% of effort is invested in looking for 1% of the targets dispersed out to the perimeter.

Figure 3. (A) Search effort (EFT; hours) over a 43-year period to match the level of coverage with the probability of detection from a random search effort. (B) is the reproduction of 2nd generation progeny by undetected targets of the 1st generation shown as Base 10 log scale.

Based on this model, we estimate accrual of future management costs ranging from $169,000-337,000 for every mature target detected, with the increase from the base cost dependent on increasing propagule loads and the static cost to treat each those individuals detected.

- James Leary, Kimberly Burnett and Christopher Wada



Cacho, O.J., Hester, S. and Spring, D., 2007. Applying search theory to determine the feasibility of eradicating an invasive population in natural environments. Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 51(4), pp.425-443. 

Fletcher C. S. and Westcott D. A.. 2013. Dispersal and the design of effective management strategies for plant invasions: matching scales for success. Ecological Applications 23:1881–1892. 

Koopman, B.O. (1946). Search and Screening. Operations Evaluations Group Report no. 56, Center for Naval Analyses, Alexandria, VA. 

Leary, J.J., Gooding, J., Chapman, J., Radford, A., Mahnken, B. and Cox, L.J., 2013. Calibration of an Herbicide Ballistic Technology (HBT) helicopter platform targeting Miconia calvescens in Hawaii. Invasive Plant Science and Management, 6(2), pp.292-303. 

Leary, J., Mahnken, B.V., Cox, L.J., Radford, A., Yanagida, J., Penniman, T., Duffy, D.C. and Gooding, J., 2014. Reducing nascent miconia (Miconia calvescens) patches with an accelerated intervention strategy utilizing herbicide ballistic technology.

Lodge, D.M., Williams, S., MacIsaac, H.J., Hayes, K.R., Leung, B., Reichard, S., Mack, R.N., Moyle, P.B., Smith, M., Andow, D.A. and Carlton, J.T., 2006. Biological invasions: recommendations for US policy and management. Ecological Applications, 16(6), pp.2035- 2054. 

Science and Community Engagement to Improve Water Management in Hawaii

‘Ike Wai (from the Hawaiian ‘ike, meaning knowledge, and wai, meaning water) is a five-year National Science Foundation project. The multidisciplinary research team from UH Manoa and Hilo will collect new geophysical and groundwater data, integrate these data into detailed groundwater models, and generate an improved understanding of subsurface water location, volume and flow paths. Data and outputs from ‘Ike Wai will be used to develop decision making tools to address challenges to fresh water scarcity from climate variability, increasing population demands, and water contamination.

UHERO Project Environment researchers will work with stakeholders to develop land-use scenarios, with a particular emphasis on potential areas for watershed restoration. Recharge values and restoration costs will be estimated for these scenarios and used as inputs to the groundwater model. Assumptions about development and population growth will be used to project consumption on the demand side, and the groundwater model will then allocate pumping spatially to minimize declines in water levels and deterioration in water quality due to seawater intrusion (SWI). Results from the pumping simulations can then be compared with current estimates of sustainable yield. We will also estimate the return on investment in watershed restoration for each of the scenarios.

The new field data and groundwater modeling efforts will help to improve current sustainable yield estimates. With recharge likely to change in the future due to climate change and land use decisions (e.g. watershed restoration), sustainable yield should also be variable. Although, current estimates of sustainable yield do not account for ecological and customary uses, several stakeholders have shown interest in developing a framework to do so. We will therefore look at how submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) along the coast varies with pumping and simulate the effects of different SGD constraints. We will also estimate the costs, in terms of restricting groundwater pumping, of enforcing those constraints. That is, we will: (1) compare projected groundwater consumption under each scenario to new sustainable yield estimates that account for both SWI and SGD, and (2) estimate the potential costs of maintaining pumping below sustainable yield.

Informing Water Policy in Hawaii with Transformative Interdisciplinary Research: UHERO’s Role in ʻIke Wai

UHERO's Project Environment will be leading the economic analysis for a new National Science Foundation project addressing critical gaps in the understanding of Hawaii’s fresh water supply that limit decision making, planning and crisis responses. ‘Ike Wai (from the Hawaiian ‘ike, (knowledge), and wai, (water) spans geophysics, microbiology, cyberinfrastructure, data modeling, indigenous knowledge and economics and connects university scientists to state and federal agencies and community groups.

Diversity in volcano age, eruption types, structural history, and hydrological features generate a complex subsurface water system that provides most of Hawaii’s potable water supply. While many hydrological studies have been carried out in Hawaii, relatively little is known about the exact structure of the many groundwater (GW) aquifers that are present throughout the state. Existing models are able to approximate the structure, but the accuracy of predicted water flows and sustainable yields for Hawaiian watersheds is limited by the availability of existing data, which is used to calibrate the models. Accordingly, ʻIke Wai will use new technology to measure the volume and interconnectivity of aquifers within Hawaiian volcanoes. Geophysical imaging will provide new high-resolution 3D maps of geologic structures. Real-time monitoring will support analysis of aquifer volume and hydraulic conductivity estimations. Flow and aquifer connectivity measurements will integrate three approaches: submarine GW Discharge (SGD) analysis, geochemistry and the innovative use of microbial diversity as a GW tracer.

Data and outputs from ʻIke Wai will provide decision-making tools to address challenges related to water availability and sustainability. Recent research on the West Hawaii coast has shown that we do not fully understand the size, flow rates, and boundaries of our groundwater aquifers. Without a clear understanding of how much water is available, we cannot properly plan future water use and management. There is currently significant debate over whether there is enough water to meet planned development while ensuring the biological and ecological integrity of surrounding nearshore habitats. ʻIke Wai will provide crucial geophysical data that will allow us to assess how much water is available to support both humans and nearshore environments.

Once we know the size, volume, and flow rates of groundwater aquifers, we can match these water supply estimates with current and projected demands for water. These demands come in the form of human demand — for domestic, commercial, agricultural, and municipal use — as well as biological and ecological demands — for example the dependency of nearshore organisms on freshwater discharge to the ocean, which is driven by the size and flow rate of up-gradient aquifers. The research from ʻIke Wai will help resource managers, policy makers, and the general public understand how scarce groundwater is in these areas, and how these resources should be priced, pumped, and managed to achieve the objectives that will be determined as part of our stakeholder engagement process. These objectives could be related to development, ecological integrity, and/or cultural integrity — we won’t know exactly what we are aiming for until we engage the stakeholders in our research.

The ʻIke Wai Initiative will give us a better sense of where the water is, how much is there, how much and where we can pump for what uses, and how we should best manage (price, restrict, require permits for, etc.) this resource. Stakeholder engagement and policy evaluation are also key components of the project, so we believe that the research results will not only be transformative from a scientific perspective but also useful for planning and management. Providing user friendly access to data and research results is an important objective of the project. Software engineers will work collaboratively with other members of the research team and stakeholders to create web and mobile applications for data dissemination, interaction and visualization.

For more information on the project, visit EPSCoR.

--Kimberly Burnett and Christopher Wada

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