Hawaii's Hidden Gem: Nihoa Island and Its Imperiled Biota

January 19, 2023

Sheldon Plentovich, Ph. D., USFWS Pacific Islands Coastal Program Coordinator Nihoa

Island is the tallest and most biologically diverse island within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The 63-ha volcanic remnant is steep and rocky with sheer cliffs reaching heights of almost 1,000 feet. Nihoa's biota is remarkably intact and includes over 40 species (3 plants, 2 songbirds and over 35 arthropods) found nowhere else in the world. At least 16 species of seabirds breed on the island and the vegetation is dominated by plants that are endangered and difficult to find elsewhere in the Hawaiian Islands. The island is also home to a variety of fantastical arthropods like the Nihoa trap door spider, Conant's giant Nihoa Tree Cricket and a terrestrial snail that is the last surviving member of its genus in the Hawaiian Islands. Despite regular trips to the island, very little is known about the natural history of Nihoa's arthropods and many species remain undiscovered or undescribed by scientists. Although limited in number, invasive plants and invasive arthropods, especially ants pose a significant threat to the island's biota and support for control and eradication of these species is necessary for the continued existence of Nihoa's curious and incredibly diverse biota. Join Sheldon Plentovich as she shares her work on Nihoa and what lies ahead for this hidden gem of Hawaiʻi.

This presentation is part of the Third Thursday By the Bay Presentation Series at Mokupāpapa Discovery Center, which is the visitor center for Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hilo, Hawaiʻi. This lecture series is also supported by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation