Orange fish in the ocean - photo by Hiroko Yoshii - photo by Hiroko Yoshii

Malama `Aina: Taking Care of the Land

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Hawaii is one of the most biologically and geologically diverse regions on our planet. The U.S. state is comprised of a chain of many islands and is home to one of the world's most active volcanoes and, accordingly, some of its youngest geological formations. People visit the islands to relax on the beaches, enjoy the incredible underwater world and marvel at the lush flora and fauna. Some of the species, such as whales, are large and magnificent. Others, like the delicate flowers that decorate the tropical landscape, are smaller and perhaps not as initially noticeable, but no less astounding.

The Hawaiian Islands are unique in that they are both inhabited and extremely isolated. This contributes to the complexity of their habitats and, ultimately, their vulnerability. Each island has a unique ecosystem that is becoming more and more fragile. According to Paul Alan Cox, director of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, one in every eight species is already near extinction in rainforests throughout the world, including those in Hawaii. Even outside of the rainforests, Hawaii has the highest rate of extinction per square mile, and many endemic species are currently listed as threatened or endangered. That is a startling number; one that we need to work toward lowering.

Hawaii holds a special place in my heart. There is something about the immense power of the active volcanoes, the serenity of the ocean and the vibrancy of the lush vegetation and varied wildlife that resonate with me. I have had the pleasure of traveling to the Big Island (Hawai'i) and to Maui on several different occasions, and the incredible beauty of these islands – both on land and underwater – has me yearning to return.

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