Kīpukapuaulu: A Forest Apart

A rainforest trail

Kīpukapuaulu: A Forest Apart

The Hawaiian word kīpuka is often used to refer to an “island” of forest surrounded by newer lava flows. An example of a kīpuka here in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is Kīpukapuaulu where an island of native plants and animals has survived not only the many lava flows from Mauna Loa volcano, but also the invasive plants and animals brought by humans. The introduction of invasive species to Hawaiʻi has been detrimental to native forests. Kīpukapuaulu is a designated Special Ecological Area that is being restored by the Natural Resource Management staff in the park. Their goal is to protect and nurture the endemic plants and animals and foster the interconnected and diverse roles they play in a native ecosystem. The curriculum I am helping to create invites students to reflect on these native ecosystems and how they are being preserved.

Kīpukapuaulu is a great place to find native species like the tiny happy-face spider or nananana makakiʻi which are best seen at night on the underside of leaves. They are called happy-face spiders because of the pattern on their abdomen that sometimes look like a smiling face.

Do you see it?

A small spider on the underside of a leaf

Hawaiian words often have many layers of meaning. As I said, kīpuka is used to refer to an island of forest surrounded by a lava flow, but it can also mean a difference from the norm or something exceptional like an oasis, a clearing in a forest, or a calm place in a rough sea.

What are the kīpuka in your life? And how could your kīpuka be preserved?

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