Colonization (18 C. to present) Radically Transforms the Landscape to Include Fire

Since the arrival of European and American settlers in the late 18th century, the cultural and economic landscape of Hawaiʻi has undergone rapid and profound transformations. These changes, accompanied by the replacement of native ecosystems with invasive weedy plants, particularly fire-prone grasses, and the introduction of non-native animals, have brought significant alterations to the environment and fire dynamics.

Massive Shifts in Culture, Economics and Populations Transform Hawai`i

Beginning in earnest with the privatization of land during The Māhele in 1848, US business interests began imposing commodity agriculture on the landscape. This led to the destruction of the Native Hawaiian’s existing sophisticated irrigation, agricultural and dwelling systems. Additionally, streams were diverted for sugarcane and pineapple plantations which, for the most part, are no longer in operation. Those fallow croplands and pastures have now been overtaken by fire-prone weeds and (non-native grasses), and the diverted streams still do not run their natural courses, perpetuating the ecological disruption. >> READ MORE

Unlike many continental ecosystems, the native ecosystems in Hawaiʻi are not fire-adapted, having evolved in the absence of frequent fires. In general, native plants do not recover well, if at all after a fire. Without intervention, they are supplanted by invasive grasses and shrubs, which serves to continue the grass-fire cycle. >>WATCH HERE

Wildfire's Impact to Rare and Endangered Hawaiian Plants (Factsheet)