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Biocultural restoration in Hawaiʻi also achieves core conservation goals

Kawika B. Winter, National Tropical Botanical Garden; Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; Hawaiʻi Conservation Alliance, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi
Tamara Ticktin, Department of Botany, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Shimona A. Quazi, Department of Botany, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; National Tropical Botanical Garden


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Biocultural approaches to restoration have demonstrated multiple benefits for human communities, but the ecological benefits and trade-offs involved have received little attention. Using a case study from Hawaiʻi, we examined if forest restoration aimed at reviving and maintaining cultural interactions with the forest is compatible with other priority conservation metrics. We identified species of high biocultural value for an Indigenous (Native Hawaiian) community, and then tested if these species also have high conservation value in terms of their biogeographic origin, ability to support native wildlife, and ability to persist independently within the restored context. Additionally, we tested if an assemblage of species with high biocultural value can also support high functional trait diversity. We found bioculturally important species to have high conservation values for all metrics tested, except for the ability to conserve rare or endangered endemic species. However, a broader application of biocultural conservation, such as the revival of the “sacred forest” concept, can address this priority as part of a mosaic of different species assemblages and levels of access. We also found that biocultural value may, at least in part, be a function of coevolutionary time: the length of time over which a community has interacted with a given species. Given that forests are invaluable to many Indigenous communities and, given the existential threats many of these communities currently face, we suggest that forests containing species assemblages of high biocultural value, such as those in Hawaiʻi, be considered as critical cultural habitat.

Key words

biocultural value; coevolutionary time; critical cultural habitat; sacred forest; social-ecological system theory

Copyright © 2020 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087