Hawaii Month 2- Research Updates

Research is going well, I’ve finally started spending much more time in the field. At the moment, I’m interested in measuring the biomass content of the research site I am working on. This research site- ‘Liko Na Pilina’ is a hybrid restoration project whereby a group of scientists from the USDA Forest service, UH Hilo and Stanford University are creating a ‘model community’ to restore the lowland wet forest. This model community consists of non-native non-invasive and native species, with the goal of restoring the native ecosystem as much as possible. Hopefully the non-native species will inhibit invasive growth!  Read more here. These non-native species in the mix, are plants of Polynesian heritage (avocado, breadfruit, noni) to name a few. This is what I find cool about the project, its objective is native plant restoration, but it has an agroforestry aspect- potential food production. 

I’m interested in measuring some of the Ecosystem Services this modified forest provides. What yields can we obtain from this forest? and  what is the biomass content compared to the invaded lowland forest?

Right now I’m working on the carbon content, and its significance with regards to carbon offsetting schemes. To measure the carbon content I need to use equations (‘allometric equations‘) that integrate tree height, diameter, wood density and morphology. As incredible as it may seem, a lot of these trees don’t have allometric equations. So, I measure tree height and diameter of the species that don’t have allometric equations to be found in the literature. I will then create an equation that gives me the diameter to height relationship for every tree, this requires measuring 30 individuals per species (for instance, 30 Tetraplasandra hawaiiensis trees). I will then plug these relationships into biomass equations developed by Chave et al., (2014) for wet tropical forests. The fact that I’ve measured height gives me more precise biomass estimations of the forest once it reaches maturity. 

A few pictures from the field:


Every tree in our research plots is flagged so we can keep track during the long-term monitoring


This is me in the field measuring the gigantic Samanea Saman trees- or “monkeypod’ or ‘raintree’. This tree is a nitrogen fixing tree.


Here I stand 30 meters away from my friend Sarah, helping me with my measurements. She is two tide-pools away! Here we were measuring trees one finds by the coast, mostly Terminalia catappa ‘false camani’ or ‘Bengal almond’. The seed inside the fruit is edible when fully ripe, tasting almost like an almond!




A few things I need for fieldwork: my RiteInTheRain notebook (because it sure does rain!) , my data sheet, tape measure, and DBH tape (diameter at breast height tape, to measure tree diameter), and of course my cup of tea before the day starts!



I found shelf Mushrooms in the forest! I’m not sure what they are, but they make a great shelf whilst I’m taking notes!



In the lab. These are sections of trunks, used to measure wood density. The weight is determined, and then they are burnt.