The role of indigenous practices in expanding waterbird habitat in the face of rising seas

Kristen C. Harmon, Kawika B. Winter, Natalie Kurashima, Charles H. Fletcher, Haunani H. Kane, Melissa R. Price

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


In Hawai‘i, as is the case globally, sea level rise threatens the availability of suitable habitat for waterbirds and other coastal species. This study examines Hawaiian wetland agro-ecosystems (loʻi) as social-ecological systems that may meet human needs while expanding nesting habitat of endangered waterbirds, if restored under an Indigenous Resource Management paradigm. We applied spatial analysis to project: (1) the area of existing waterbird habitat likely lost to sea level rise by the end of the century (2100); and (2) the area of waterbird habitat potentially gained through restoration of lo‘i systems. Results show that, if loʻi offer similar or equivalent habitat value to Hawaiian waterbirds as conventionally managed wetlands, the restoration of loʻi would not only compensate for projected losses of wetland habitat due to sea level rise, but substantially contribute toward the recovery of endangered waterbirds that are currently habitat-limited. This study demonstrates capacity for contemporary Indigenous land management to address conservation and food-security needs in the Hawaiian Islands, as well as challenges of multi-objective land use and habitat restoration for endangered wetland-dependent fauna. This research further contributes toward a growing number of studies suggesting that Indigenous practices based on social-ecological frameworks offer potential to achieve sustainability and biodiversity goals simultaneously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100293
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Hawai‘i
  • Inundation
  • Lo‘i
  • Nesting
  • Sea level rise
  • Wetland agro-ecosystem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of indigenous practices in expanding waterbird habitat in the face of rising seas'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this