BIISC Staff Mission
Our mission is to prevent, detect, and control the establishment and spread of invasive species threats to the Big Island environment, economy, and way of life. We work island-wide protecting our native forests, communities, and agriculture from new and ongoing threats.
Our vision is that BIISC, which is both the committee and the staff it supports, transforms the way stakeholders interact to address invasive species threatening our island way of life. We believe that the committee structure provides the mechanism by which invasive species problems can be addressed in innovative, collaborative, and mutually beneficial ways. Our highly trained rapid response team will be quickly mobilized to address new threats or add manpower to ongoing issues in a comprehensive, effective manner. We will work island-wide to empower communities to take direct action in their neighborhoods and advocate for proactive invasive species policy. Our work will be guided by committed subject matter experts and community leaders, a strong commitment to public service, and unwavering integrity.
Invasive Species in Hawaii
Invasive species are defined as organisms that are introduced to an area (non-native) and cause harm in at least one of three area: the environment, the economy, or human health. When a species arrives in a new environment without the diseases, predators, and pests that it evolved with in its home place, it can get out of control. Albizia trees are a great example: in Hawaii they are the fastest growing tree in the world, but this is not true in their native range, where their growth is restricted by natural enemies. Island ecosystems are more vulnerable to invasion by harmful species that may not face the stiff competition for nutrients and resources as they would in a continental system. Hawaii has the distinction of having the most plants and animals on the Endangered Species list. On continents, habitat destruction is the current top threat to endangered species, but on islands, the #1 threat is invasive species.
Of the World’s 100 Worst Invasive Species, as designated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), half are present in Hawaii. And this list does not even include many of our worst economic pests, like tephritid fruit flies and coffee berry borer; high-risk health threats, like semi-slug & the rat-lungworm parasite; or environmental threats like tibouchina and rapid ohi’a death. Because of our unique Hawaiian environment, many organisms that have little effect elsewhere have big impacts here.
Currently, there is no single “list” in Hawaii for the top invasive species. Some are currently widespread on some islands but absent on others, some are currently still restricted to limited areas – which requires sustained and intensive effort on the part of many agencies and landowners. Ask what the “top” invasives are, and the answers will differ for a farmer in Hamakua, a rancher in Ka’u, a Park Ranger in Volcano, or a homeowner in Puna. A good list of the most impactful invaders can be found on the Hawaii Invasive Species Council website.