Hawaii tropical high shrublands

Please note: These biome and ecoregion pages (and associated data) are no longer being updated and may now be out of date. These pages and data exist for historical reference only. For updated bioregion data, please visit One Earth.

  • Scientific Code
  • Ecoregion Category
  • Size
    700 square miles
  • Status
  • Habitats

Biological Distinctiveness
Hawaiian high shrublands range from open shrublands to alpine grasslands and deserts. The upper slopes of the high volcanoes, Mauna kea, Mauna loa, Hualalai, and Haleakala, support shrubland habitats with species such as Chenopodium oahuense, Vaccinium reticulatum, Dubautia menziesii, and Santalum haleakalae. Subalpine grasslands, patchily distributed within and adjacent to the shrub zone, are dominated by tussock-forming species such as Deschampsia nubigena, Eragrostis atropioides, Panicum tenuifolium, and Trisetum glomeratum (HINHP 1996, Sohmer and Gustafson 1987). On the highest peaks, cold and dry conditions create alpine deserts inhabited by silversword (Agryroxiphium sandwicense), Dubautia spp., and other alpine-adapted plants, as well as alpine-adapted invertebrate species. The Hawaiian nene goose (Branta sandvicensis ) lives in high shrubland areas, and endangered Hawaiian dark-rumped petrels nest in burrows in subalpine and alpine cinderlands.

Conservation Status
Several important areas for conserving high shrublands that have no or incomplete protection have been identified by Sohmer and Gon (1996): Leeward East Maui, Haleakala Summit of Maui (protected), Alpine summits (Hawai’i), and the Pohakuloa-Saddle area of Hawai'i.

Types and Severity of Threats
Although some large blocks of relatively intact high shrublands and alpine deserts still exist, overgrazing by domestic and feral livestock, wildfires, trampling from recreational activities, competition from introduced plants, removal of plants such as silverswords, and introduced ants that kill native invertebrate pollinators all pose significant threats to native species and communities (Gagne and Christensen 1985, Sohmer and Gustafson 1988). Alpine grasslands have been reduced in range (Sohmer and Gustafson 1988), but still occupy more than50 percent of their presumed original range (Jacobi 1985, HINHP 1996).

Suite of Priority Activities to Enhance Biodiversity Conservation

Conservation Partners

•Hawaii Natural Heritage Program
•The Nature Conservancy
•The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii
Relationship to other classification schemes
The Hawaiian High Shrublands corresponds to Küchler’s (1985) unit 7 (Grassland, microphyllus shrubland, and barren). Omernik (1995) did not classify Hawaii, and Bailey (1994) clumped all of Hawaii into one unit.

Prepared by: Sam Gon