Environmental issues in Hawaii

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Hawaii is a series of volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean 2,000 mi (3,200 km) off the coast of the United States.

The majority of the environmental issues affecting Hawaii today are related to pressures from increasing human and animal population in the limited separation space of the islands.[1]

Invasive species[edit]

Flora and fauna[edit]

A number of plant species are now extinct due to grazing livestock, and aggressive non-indigenous species taking over the land.[2] Almost 40% of the endangered species in the United States are Hawaiian species, while nearly 75% of all U.S. extinctions have occurred in Hawaii.[3]

The native flora comprises 89% endemic species, but the flora of Hawaii now includes more than 1044 introduced plant species; more than 100 of these are likely to be invasive in natural areas. Species such as the strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum), and christmasberry (Schinus terebinthifolius) have spread across wide areas, competing with native species and altering the natural ecosystem. Recent invaders like miconia or velvet tree (Miconia calvescens) and Himalayan raspberry (Rubus ellipticus) are now permanently established over large areas. These species are predicted to decrease watershed function.[4]

Prior to the arrival of non-natives, some bird species were made extinct, or pushed to near extinction from the collection of feathers by Native Hawaiians. With the arrival of James Cook in 1778, a new set of environmental threats emerged. Alien species such as cats, dogs, rabbits, pigs, and rats affected a number of indigenous species. Hawaii is known as the "extinction capital of the world" with the extinction of nearly half (140) of its historically recorded native bird species.[5] Some of the alien species that are currently affecting Hawaii include cane toads, mongoose, coquí frogs, gall wasps, Mediterranean, Oriental, and melon flies that damage crops, ants that destroy native insects, and bacteria that infect waters.[2][6]

Air quality[edit]

Compared with the mainland United States, Hawaii's rating on the air quality index is ranked among the best. Approximately 47% of all emissions are caused by burning fossil fuel for electricity production. Ground transport is the second biggest contributor with 22%, while air transport contributes 19%.[7]

Water quality[edit]

The waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands are affected by effluents generated and released from the islands themselves. Floating plastic garbage is a problem, and refuse from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is affecting beaches in Hawaii, such as Kamilo Beach. The U.S. military used the ocean as a dumping ground for munitions from 1919 to 1970, [8] and the U.S. army dumped 16,000 mustard gas bombs in deep water (south of Pearl Harbor after World War II.)

Superfund sites[edit]

Map of superfund sites in Hawaii

This is a list of Superfund sites in Hawaii designated under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) environmental law. The CERCLA federal law of 1980 authorized the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create a list of polluted locations requiring a long-term response to clean up hazardous material contaminations.[9] These locations are known as Superfund sites, and are placed on the National Priorities List (NPL). The NPL guides the EPA in "determining which sites warrant further investigation" for environmental remediation.[10] As of May 1, 2010, there were three Superfund sites on the National Priorities List in Hawaii.[10] One further site has been cleaned up and removed from the NPL; no sites are currently proposed for addition.[10] All sites are on the island of Oahu.

  Deleted from National Priorities List

CERCLIS ID Name County Reason Proposed Listed[11] Construction
HID980637631 Del Monte Corp. (Oahu Plantation) Honolulu Soil and shallow groundwater at the site have been contaminated with the fumigants EDB, DBCP, and DCP, the solvents TCP and benzene and the pesticide lindane.[15] 05/10/1993 12/16/1994
HI0170090054 Naval Computer & Telecommunications Area Honolulu Soil contamination in different areas by PCBs, volatile organics, semi-volatile organics and metals.[16] 01/18/1994 05/31/1994
HI4170090076 Pearl Harbor Naval Complex Honolulu Soil, groundwater and sediment are contaminated with metals, organic compounds and petroleum hydrocarbons.[17] 07/29/1991 10/14/1992
HI7210090026 Schofield Barracks (U.S. Army) Honolulu Groundwater contains trichloroethylene.[18] 07/14/1989 08/30/1990 09/23/1998


  • Hawaii Superferry - concerns were raised that the ferry service would harm marine life, and the unrestricted transport of vehicles may spread invasive species.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Environmental Center at University of Hawaii Manoa". University of Hawaii. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  2. ^ a b Yoon, Carol Kaesuk (1992-12-29). "Alien Species Threaten Hawaii's Environment". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  3. ^ Reeser, D.; B. Harry (Nov 2005). "Controlling Ungulate Populations in native ecosystems in Hawaii" (PDF). Position Paper. Hawaii Conservation Alliance. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  4. ^ Johnson, T. (2005-12-03). "Biological control of weeds in Hawaiian forests" (PDF). Position Paper. Hawaii Conservation Alliance. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  5. ^ Groombridge, Jim (2008-01-28). "Hawaii: extinction capital of the world". Features & Special Reports. Natural Environment Research Council. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  6. ^ "Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk (HEAR)". website. Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk project (HEAR). Retrieved 2009-06-15. 
  7. ^ Kaya, Maurice H. (2002-05-01). "Hawaii: Energy, the Environment, and the Economy". Air Pollution as a Climate Forcing: A Workshop. East-West Center: Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  8. ^ "Old Weapons Off Hawaii Should Stay Put, Army Says". Honolulu: Associated Press.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help);
  9. ^ P.L. 96-510, 42 U.S.C. §§ 96019675), December 11, 1980.
  10. ^ a b c "National Priorities List". United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  11. ^ "Final NPL sites". EPA. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  12. ^ "Construction Completions at NPL sites". EPA. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  13. ^ "Partial deletions at NPL sites". EPA. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  14. ^ "Deleted NPL sites". EPA. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  15. ^ "Del Monte Corp. (Oahu Plantation)". Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  16. ^ "Naval Computer & Telecommunications Area". Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  17. ^ "Pearl Harbor Naval Complex". Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  18. ^ "Schofield Barracks (U.S. Army)". Retrieved 2009-12-06. 

External links[edit]