Maui Business

Haleakala Silverswords Part of $1M Federal Research Grant

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Haleakala silverswords. Photo by Wendy Osher.

By Sonia Isotov

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Friday that nationwide funding of more than $10 million in research grants will include a project on Maui to study the Haleakala silverswords.

The Haleakala silverswords research grant is part of a Pacific regional partnership that will receive federal grants amounting to $1,268,481.


A total of 69 projects nationwide will be undertaken by teams of scientists associated with the Interior Department’s 8 regional Climate Science Centers. The projects aim to guide resource managers to plan effectively for the adaptation of species and ecosystems in a changing climate.

Five of the 69 funded projects are for the Pacific Island Climate Science Center, which was established earlier this year as a partnership led by the US Geological Survey (USGS), UH Manoa, UH Hilo and the University of Guam. One of the five will be a study of Haleakala’s silverswords.

“This is an exciting development for the new Climate Science Center, for UH and for the climate research community in the Pacific region,” said Kevin Hamilton, the director of the Pacific Island Climate Science Center and a professor of meteorology at UH Manoa, in a written statement.


“The new funding will enable projects that will enhance our understanding of how climate change will impact the ecology of Pacific islands over the next several decades. The interdisciplinary nature of the scientific issues we face is illustrated by the fact that the scientists involved in these five projects span UH Hilo, four different schools and colleges at UH Manoa, as well as federal and other mainland partners.”

Paul D. Krushelnycky, of the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, will lead a study entitled: “Understanding How Climate Change is Affecting Hawaii’s High-Elevation Ecosystems: An Assessment of the Long-Term Viability of Haleakala Silverswords and Associated Biological Communities.”

The study will examine the patterns and causes of recent decline in Haleakala silverswords associated with decreasing rainfall, increasing temperature and related climate changes in Hawaii’s high-elevation ecosystems, will collect the demographic and climate data needed to construct a population model for the silversword and make future projections under various climate scenarios, and will conduct seedling drought tolerance experiments to determine methods that lead to restoration.


The other Hawaii projects funded are:

  • Climate Change Research in Support of Hawaiian Ecosystem Management: An Integrated Approach, led by Oliver Elison Timm, International Pacific Research Center, UH Manoa.
  • 21st Century High-Resolution Climate Projections for Guam and American Samoa, led by Yuqing Wang, International Pacific Research Center, UH Manoa.
  • Modeling Climate-Driven Changes to Dominant Vegetation in the Hawaiian Islands, led by Jonathan Price, Department of Geography, UH Hilo.
  • Vulnerability of Hawaiian Forest Birds to Climate Change – Using Models to Link Landscape, Climate, Disease, and Potential Adaptation, led by Michael D. Samuel, USGS.

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