Today, the National Park of American Samoa celebrates 26 years of preserving and protecting our islands majestic coral reefs, lush tropical rain forests, fruit bats as vital pollinators, and the rich Samoan culture.
Come celebrate with us as we continue to bring valued service to our community. Drop us a birthday greeting on our Facebook page. :)
Global sea level will rise between 0.2 m and 1.9 m by 2100 according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Sea level rise is caused by a combination of processes including the melting of polar ice caps and glaciers, thermal expansion of ocean water, mining of groundwater aquifers, and, in places like Hawai‘i Island, subsidence of land masses (the island is slowly sinking). Estimates of sea level rise vary depending on the trajectory of global greenhouse gas emissions, and are based on different scenarios established by the IPCC. The more extreme values of sea level rise (1.9 m) reflect a future emissions scenario in which global population growth is coupled with continued intensive fossil fuel use. In all scenarios, rates of sea level rise are accelerating and will continue to accelerate in the future.
Geospatial predictions of coastal change under sea level rise typically pair current coastal elevation data and future sea level scenarios. These models tend to be conservative because they often do not incorporate future tectonic uplift or subsidence, high wave events, or shoreline erosion which will exacerbate coastal inundation and change, especially during large episodic events (e.g. storms or tsunamis). In some coastal areas, groundwater floating on top of denser, more saline water, may also exacerbate flooding as sea levels rise. In all sea level rise models, predictions should be viewed with the understanding that there is considerable regional and local uncertainty in the future propagation of storms and waves, vertical land movement, and variation in basin wide processes such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.
Parks at Risk
Coastal erosion, tsunamis, and coastal inundation due to waves and sea level rise will have serious impacts on the future shorelines of all Pacific island national parks. Cultural and natural resources are already being altered by sea level rise. Incorporating detailed elevation data and sea level rise predictions in the early stages of resource protection planning will aid in long term management of park trails, resources, and infrastructure, and could lessen negative long-term impacts. Furthermore, scenario planning for habitat migration due to rising ocean levels and retreating groundwater is essential so that the predicted future locations of important habitats, like potentially nascent anchialine pools, can be factored in. This is one of the major components of the National Park Service’s Natural Resource Adaptation Strategy.
Predicting changes to anchialine pools
Anchialine pools are brackish coastal ecosystems without a surface connection to the ocean, where groundwater and ocean water (from underground) mix. In Hawai‘i, groundwater flows through these pools and out to wetlands and coral reefs making them valuable indicators of broad-scale groundwater recharge and contamination. The NPS Inventory & Monitoring Program takes regular measurements of the water quality and overall health of park pools, which are found no other place in the United States outside of Hawaii. Hawaiian anchialine pools are tidally influenced, range in size from less than 1 m² to over 3000 m² and support diverse endemic plants and animals, including seven species listed as Candidate Threatened or Endangered Species. Anchialine pool shrimp and mollusk species disperse throughout the ocean as larvae and through groundwater as larvae or adults.
A total of 193 anchialine pools have been mapped at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park, 15 at Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park (PUHO), and 16 at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. When the pool locations are overlain on maps depicting inundation scenarios, the extent of inundation can be calculated. At the 0.5 m sea level rise scenario at all three parks, current pools become larger but they are not generally inundated or connected overland to the ocean. In PUHO at a 1 m scenario, 50% of the pools are inundated and become connected to the ocean. For the 1.9 m scenario at the extreme tide, only a few pools continue to be isolated while 71% become inundated at PUHO.
Incorporating detailed elevation data and sea level rise predictions in coastal planning should aid in long-term management of both developed and natural areas. In particular, this project aims to identify key areas to preserve for maintaining environmental and cultural integrity in the future. For example, while some features such as individual anchialine pools will be inundated, anchialine pool, fishpond and wetland habitats will emerge or shift in the landscape, essentially fostering new habitats. Protecting future potential habitat from development will conserve valuable land, and will reduce the need to repair or relocate infrastructure placed in these areas.
The goal of this project is to share sea level rise inundation scenarios with NPS staff as well as public and private partners so that everyone can plan for the future condition of Hawai‘i’s shorelines.
This summary is just the tip of the melting iceberg. For a much more in-depth report, read the source article by Lisa Marrack and Patrick O’Grady from the University of California, Berkley: http://manoa.hawaii.edu/hpicesu/techr/188/v188.pdf
This week — October 26th to November 1st — has been designated as National Bat Week. The National Park of American Samoa shall be focusing on the many contributions of our fruit bats’ role to the various ecosystems in our national park.
In support of National Bat Week, the Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate has developed a webpage dedicated to bats. Nearly all national park units contain bats, and the new webpage introduces visitors to bats and their importance throughout the park system. From this page, visitors can access park-specific sites about bats as well as information about White-Nose Syndrome, a disease that is devastating certain bat populations and spreading across North America.
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Fruit bats roosting.
Work begins Friday, October 24 on an emergency access route between Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and Kalapana along the historic Chain of Craters Road-Kalapana alignment, from the park side.
The half-mile section of paved road that pedestrians use to access the lava that covered it in 2003 will be closed as of Friday. The popular “Road Closed” sign enrobed in lava will be removed to become part of park history. Other closures include the historic flows and coastal area alongside the construction.
Hōlei Sea Arch, the turnaround, bathrooms, and concession stand near the turnaround will remain open.
Motorists can expect traffic delays early Thursday and Friday mornings as large bulldozers and heavy equipment are transported from the summit of Kīlauea down the 19-mile stretch of Chain of Craters Road to the turnaround.
“We intend to reopen the closed area as soon as it is safe to do so and the bulldozers move closer to Kalapana,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “But now is the time to take those last photos of the iconic ‘Road Closed’ sign before it is removed on Friday,” she said.
Last week, bulldozers from the Kalapana side graded the 2.2-mile portion of Highway 130 covered in lava to where it meets the park boundary and becomes Chain of Craters Road. This week, crews start to grade the 5.4 miles through the park to the Kalapana boundary. The work is being done by the County of Hawai‘i, and overseen by the National Park Service and Federal Highways Administration.
Opened in 1965, Chain of Craters Road has been covered and blocked by lava for 37 years of its 49-year existence.
The emergency route is being built to assist residents of lower Puna, whose access to the rest of the island would be cut off if lava from Kīlauea Volcano’s June 27 flow reaches the ocean.
Field work for the Accuracy Assessment stage of Haleakalā National Park’s vegetation mapping project commenced in January 2014. The purpose of Accuracy Assessment is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the draft vegetation map (see below). This is done by on-the-ground assessment of the vegetation and referencing an established vegetation classification. The field data is then compared to the draft map to determine if the satellite imagery of the park’s vegetation has been properly assigned into vegetation classification types. This process involves field crews navigating to randomly selected points throughout Haleakalā NP and assessing the site’s vegetation within a 40 meter radius circle or designated polygon, and assigning a vegetation type that has been previously described at the park. The project included over 600 target points with over 50 possible vegetation types. These vegetation types occur at designated elevational and climatic zones and are classified by the dominant plant species present. At Haleakalā NP, these types range from the semi-natural lowland dry forest, dominated by the non-native kiawe tree (Prosopis pallida), to the montane wet forest dominated by the native ‘ōhi‘a (Metrosideros polymorpha) and ‘ōlapa trees (Cheirodendron trigynum). This project provided the opportunity for field crews to explore the amazingly diverse and unique landscapes of Haleakalā from mauka to makai, a Hawaiian phrase simply translated as ‘from the mountain to the ocean’.
It is no small feat to map the vegetation of the 34,000+ acres that comprises Haleakalā NP. The process started over three years ago with the initial field classification plots and observations, and will be completed this spring when the final map and report are published. Once complete this comprehensive vegetation map will serve as a dynamic tool for park managers and research scientists. Accuracy Assessment is the final stage of the field work for the project and took no less than 15 Park staff, contractors, and volunteers to accomplish over a seven month period. Haleakalā has some of the most diverse and unique environments in the world. Habitats include the mosaic Subalpine Shrubland, the sparse cindery Crater, the Greensword Bogs of the Northeast Rift, the ephemeral grasslands of Nuʻu, and the Wet Forests of Kīpahulu Valley and ʻOʻheo Gulch.
Six hundred and one points were observed with many requiring camping in remote backcountry areas of the park. Reaching points often involved traversing through dense vegetation, across varied terrain, and in inclement weather.
Manawainui is an area on the south side of Haleakalā positioned between Kaupō Gap on the west and Kīpahulu Valley on the east. It sits at 5,000 feet elevation above a spectacular valley that often displays numerous ribbons of waterfalls streaming down its cliffs, inspiring the name Manawainui which translates as ‘powerful spirit water’. At the end of June, NPS Inventory and Monitoring crewmembers Meagan Selvig (University of Hawai‘i cooperator), Joey Latsha (volunteer), and I had the opportunity to stay at ʻŌhiʻa Camp, a backcountry shelter in Manawainui, to assess the vegetation types and explore this unique area. Misty clouds gusted by us as we navigated to target points through mossy gulches, narrow ridges, and dense thickets of the vining fern uluhe (Dicranopteris linearis). We would call out to each other as we passed by a rarely seen plant or caught a glimpse of a native bird fluttering by. In one gulch we were delighted to see a population of over 20 Lobelia gloria-montis, a rare plant that is truly the glory of the mountain. Later as we proceeded to cross another gulch and head up a steep slope of uluhe, we happened upon a fully blooming Trematolobelia macrostachys with its branching inflorescence of magenta flowers. A rare and wonderful sight we were fortunate to behold as one of the great highlights of our field season at Haleakalā National Park.
–Elizabeth Urbanski, NPS Biological technician
–Meagan Selvig, UH-Hilo Vegetation mapping coordinator