Reforestation efforts reshape Hawaii's soil hydrology


  • Colin Schultz


Starting with the arrival in Hawaii of Polynesian settlers in the fourth century and peaking in the mid-1800s, the destructive forces of wildfires and pests and the grazing of feral pigs, goats, and cattle reduced the native forests of Maui to just one tenth of their original extent. Maui's native vegetation was replaced largely by imported or invasive species. Over time, the invasive grasses that took root reshaped the hydrological properties of the soil, reducing the viability of native plant species, which had evolved to thrive under Hawaii's previous hydrological dynamics. Maui's ecosystem had been changed for so long that scientists were uncertain whether the region could actually again support the native flora