Volunteers Clearing Invasive Plant from the Mokulua Islands to Help Seabirds

An invasive plant species called Haole koa has had a negative impact on the nesting grounds of the Wedge Tailed Shearwater sea birds that call the Mokulua Islands off the coast of Oahu their nesting ground. In a report from KHON news, Amarisa Marie from the state land department said of the Haole koa, “It creates a thicket that they will navigate because they need to be able to nest but it’s less conducive for them.” The thick growing Haole koa plants congest the pathways these birds use to find protected nests, so volunteers have been on the Mokulua Islands clearing out the Haole koa thickets just before many of the birds arrive for their mating season.

The Mokulua Islands

The Mokulua Islands, or “The Mokes” as some locals call them, are a series of small offshore islands that dot the coastline of Kailua on the windward side of Oahu. These small, uninhabited islands make perfect nesting and resting grounds for seabirds who need a place to lay their eggs, or just rest after long periods of time out at sea hunting. Only one of the Mokulua Islands is open to access by the public. The other one is off-limits, but the volunteers helping scientist remove the invasive plant species have had a unique chance to visit the restricted access island. One volunteer, Melania Gomez told KHON “It’s so wonderful, I’m really blessed that I got to do this. I would never be allowed to be on these islands, it’s really a blessing to be out here,” Volunteers and DLNR staff have been tasked with removing thickets of the Haole koa plants by cutting up the plant near the roots and applying a small dose of herbicide to discourage regrowth, and this job is no walk in the park. The steep terrain found on the islands is just one obstacle that volunteers have had to be careful of, but they seem very determined and lucky to have been able to take part in the effort.

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