Some say that a picture is worth a thousand words—a video must be worth a lot more. Dr. Rebecca Ostertag at the University of Hawai'i-Hilo and her project team provide us a look into novel ecosystem research in a Hawaiian Forest.

SERDP has funded several projects beginning in 2011 that are working to improve the understanding of carbon cycle dynamics—and how such dynamics relate to carbon management, ecological forestry practices, and tradeoffs with other ecosystem service values—across the various landforms and vegetation types that the Department of Defense (DoD) manages. One particular project on the big island of Hawai’i is approaching this research challenge in a most novel way.

The project theme, “liko nā pilina,” loosely translated means "growing new relationships" in the Hawaiian language. This name illustrates the research goal to create novel communities to restore degraded Hawaiian lowland wet forest that makes use of both native and non-invasive, non-native species. In other words, new forests are being created using some plants that evolved in Hawai‘i and others that have come here from around the world. The project is attempting to restore invaded lowland forest in a way that enhances carbon storage, encourages the regeneration of native species, discourages regeneration of highly invasive species, maintains a relatively open forest understory suitable for military jungle training, and minimizes costs and management efforts. In the process, the research team also is learning about restoring complex ecosystems (such as rain forests) and increasing our understanding of how forest communities assemble and persist in nature. The findings from this research project will help the DoD sustain the structure and biodiversity of native forests on installations where there is ongoing biological invasion and human use. 

Using Non-Traditional Forest Management Techniques to Restore Native Hawaiian Forests

A University of Hawai‘i System team arrived at the field site in June 2013. At the time, the researchers were planting new seedlings in the cleared plots, so the research team was able to capture a variety of action shots of mixing media, carrying soil, and digging holes. In addition, the chain sawing scenes were re-enacted to show how the plots were created. From the video, it can be seen that this novel ecosystem has a number of different moving parts and that this research is not only a learning tool for students, but it also will provide a model approach for DoD land managers to use to manage invaded ecosystems in the future.

Featured in the video:

Student Interns

  • Stephen McAuliffe (Humboldt State University)
  • José Iván Martes Martínez (University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez)
  • Taite Winthers-Barcelona (University of Hawai‘i at Hilo)
  • Jeff Pieper (Hawai‘i Community College)
  • Ashley Shaw (Hawai‘i Community College)

Post-Doctoral Associate Laura Warman


  • Nicole DiManno
  • Bill Buckley
  • Amanda Uowolo

PI Rebecca Ostertag