The South Maui Wetlands Restoration Hui has the following mission:

Identify critical wetlands in need of restoration:
The Hawai`i Island Land Trust (HILT) and the South Maui Save the Wetlands Hui are working collaboratively to assess the current ecological conditions and propose strategies to restore the health of select wetlands in the Kēōkea-Waiohuli corridor. The assessment will consider a variety of factors, including the degree of wetlands degradation, the likelihood of restoration success, and the potential benefits such restoration work will bring (measured against such goals as sediment attenuation, habitat provisioning, and restoration of cultural significance), and will lay the foundation for future wetlands restoration priorities.

Map and monitor the hydrological flow and habitat conditions of critical remaining wetlands:
The South Maui Save the Wetlands Hui has identified the critical long-term need for a comprehensive wetlands inventory of South Maui/Kula Kai, and the development of a wetlands program and management plan to be used as a guide for future conservation, development, and land-use changes within the region. The project will begin with collecting the hydrological flow data and habitat conditions of wetlands, assessing the feasibility of purchasing critical wetland sites or securing conservation easements, and collecting baseline data to quantify habitat improvements over time. Then data gathered will inform a future wetlands management plan and guide restoration priorities moving forward.

Conduct ecological wetland restoration work:
Ecological restoration work will be focused on repairing the structure, function, and composition of the pre-disturbance wetlands ecosystem in order to achieve greater productivity, biodiversity, and ecosystem resilience. Among the most important first steps is the identification of the sources of degradation, selection of appropriate plant species to promote restoration (the structure and composition elements of the restoration work identified above), and the restoration best management practices (BMPs) needed to ensure that the work has a lasting beneficial impact on the wetlands in question. The work is following these general steps:

  • Survey of various wetlands to determine their present condition, and assess their potential for restoration.
  • GIS mapping and drone surveying of these areas.

Educational outreach to the public to raise awareness about the importance of wetlands conservation, restoration, and protection:
To achieve our restoration goals, we are working closely with individuals, community groups, and landowners to encourage their participation in the process of wetlands restoration. Community outreach remains one of the most crucial elements in this process, both to involve the community in restoration, and to offer educational outreach programs to the community which will highlight the important task of wetlands protection and restoration.

Outreach includes presentations to community groups and various community associations across Maui as well as volunteer planting days or workdays involving the public. Our hope is that our work will lead to tangible benefits in the South Maui/Kula Kai area, as well as inspiration for future generations, groups, and other communities to take on the important task of wetlands restoration and protection island-wide.

Wetlands role in protecting beaches:
Coastal wetlands in Maui play a critical role in protecting beaches and other valuable near-shore natural resources by providing a number of important ecosystem services, including regulating and attenuating sediment flow in nearshore waters, creating a nutrient sink that prevents nitrogen and phosphorous pollution from entering the ocean and harming coral reefs, provisioning of habitat for indigenous and endemic Hawaiian waterbirds, providing for groundwater aquifer recharge, and flood mitigation. Additionally, wetlands play a significant role in the lives of the Hawaiian people (Kanaka Maoli), as both the domain of ʻaumakua (particularly Kihawahine in the South Maui area), and the establishment of landscapes that serve important economic, social, and ritual purposes, such as loʻi kalo (taro patches), and loko iʻa (fishponds). In the face of climate change and sea-level rise the wetlands provide important protection f land and water. These realities make the protection and restoration of coastal wetlands important to improving the resilience and durability of the entire Maui community. Wetland protection and restoration represent the cornerstone of the Hui’s goals, and long-term vision. Unfortunately, for well over a century in South Maui, wetlands have been filled in, cut up, and disconnected resulting in these vital ecosystem services being lost to development. It is estimated that over 75%-80% of the wetlands along the Kēōkea-Waiohuli corridor have been lost in the past 50 years.

Saving the remaining Wetlands:
The importance of protecting, restoring, and expanding, the remaining South Maui/Kula Kai wetland ecosystems cannot be overemphasized. A long-term goal of this project is to develop a comprehensive wetlands program for South Maui/Kula Kai, and Maui County as a whole. The program has begun the process of assessing, identifying, and prioritizing the remaining wetlands for restoration, work with landowners to protect wetlands on their property, and seek to link wetlands into a corridor that functions as an interconnected ecological system for the mutual benefit of the County. This project represents Phase 1 of this multi-year goal, and we are beginning the process of protecting wetlands in the South Maui/Kula Kai region because the wetlands in this area are currently under intense pressure from development and are being lost or marginalized at an alarming rate. If we do not act now, there will be few ecologically viable wetlands left within the coming decade.

Hawaiian Cultural Considerations: Hawaiian cultural sites include culturally important natural features like Puʻuone (sand dunes,) muliwai (estuary), and kahawai (stream and gulches) as well as Hawaiian burial sites in shoreline areas and sand dunes. (Quote from Lucienne de Naie). In addition to the ecological and watershed functions of wetlands and riparian areas, special care and consideration should always be given to the historical and cultural aspects. Many ancient and sacred sites are based in and around these areas, and careful consideration of cultural practices and sacredness should always be of primary concern.

Economic Impacts:
Based on the known ecosystem services provided by wetlands globally, South Maui/Kula Kai wetlands clearly represent a significant economic value to Maui County. This value comes in the form of:

  • Flood Mitigation: Wetlands provide floodplain storage of excessive stormwater, reducing flood damage. Wetlands slow runoff, increase water infiltration and attenuate floodwaters (Goldberg & Watkins, 2021).
  • Attenuating sediment flow in near shore waters: Due to trapping of sediment and depth of water (Li & Yang, 2009).
  • Carbon sequestration and pollution filtration: Wetland ecosystems by their nature are extremely biologically productive and sequester carbon and filter sewage and other potentially harmful pollutants from the environment (Macreadie, et al., 2017).
  • Creating a nutrient sink that prevents nitrogen and phosphorous pollution from entering the ocean and harming coral reefs (Kaldec, 2012).
  • Groundwater Aquifer recharge: Wetlands allow surface water to infiltrate safely into aquifers where it can be later utilized for drinking water or irrigation needs. (Hayashi & Rosenberry, 2002).
  • Shoreline protection: Coastal wetlands provide a buffer for sea-level rise and can absorb the energy of ocean waves and storms; they act as natural run-up areas in their interplay between beach dune ecosystems and estuaries, giving rising seawater a place to go.
  • Natural value and greenspace: Wetlands provide urban greenspace that increases surrounding property values and provides recreation opportunities for residents and visitors alike.

Works Cited

  • Goldberg, Nisse, and Russell L Watkins. “Spatial Comparisons in Wetland Loss, Mitigation, and Flood Hazards Among Watersheds in the Lower St. Johns River Basin, Northeastern Florida, USA.” Natural hazards (Dordrecht) (2021): n. page. Web.
  • Hayashi, Masaki, and Donald O Rosenberry. “Effects of Ground Water Exchange on the Hydrology and Ecology of Surface Water.” Ground water 40.3 (2002): 309-316. Web.
  • Kadlec, Robert H. “Constructed Marshes for Nitrate Removal.” Critical reviews in environmental science and technology 42.9 (2012): 934-1005. Web.
  • Li, H., & Yang, S. (2009). Trapping Effect of Tidal Marsh Vegetation on Suspended Sediment, Yangtze Delta. Journal of Coastal Research, 25(4), 915-930. Retrieved July 9, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27698386
  • Macreadie, Peter I et al. “Carbon Sequestration by Australian Tidal Marshes.” Scientific reports 7.1 (2017): 44071-44071. Web.
  • Qualls, Robert G, and Alan C Heyvaert. “Accretion of Nutrients and Sediment by a Constructed Stormwater Treatment Wetland in the Lake Tahoe Basin.” Journal of the American Water Resources Association 53.6 (2017): 1495-1512. Web.

Our Partners:

  • Pili Koko Org
  • Hawai`i Island Land Trust (HILT)
  • Maui Tomorrow
  • Sierra Club
  • Kihei Community Association (KCA)
  • Maui Nui Marine Resource Council