Optimizing Conservation Actions to Recover Sensitive Species Across Maui Nui

April 17, 2024

Speaker: Kristen Harmon (University of Hawai'i at Mānoa)


With hundreds of species at risk and on the brink of extinction, conservation practitioners must decide where to focus effort and which conservation actions to implement given limited funds. Decision processes that aim to maximize conservation benefit for a given cost should address complementarity of actions to ensure that species in low-diversity habitats are not excluded, and both cost and effectiveness of different actions across taxonomic groups. To address this need we modified a Priority Threat Management approach to guide resource allocation decisions for the conservation of biodiversity in Maui Nui (the islands of Maui, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘i, and Kahoʻolawe). Over a series of online meetings and in-person workshops, species experts and conservation managers contributed: (1) key threats to sensitive species; (2) management strategies to address key threats; and (3) expected cost, feasibility, and benefit of management strategies. Elicited data were analyzed to identify strategies that would provide 3 optimal gains in recovery across multiple taxonomic groups given costs and feasibility. Predator control and fencing were both identified as cost-efficient actions with the greatest gains in recovery across taxonomic groups, but those actions alone were not effective at recovering many plants and invertebrates. Participants emphasized the importance of investing in research and development of novel techniques to address persistent problems such as avian malaria, pests, and diseases. Further, despite the high initial cost of landscape-scale control of invasive species, participants highlighted the importance of long-term benefits. Findings from this study will improve both the efficient use of existing funds, and competitiveness for increased resources needed to achieve recovery.