Healthy Streams Mean A Healthy Aina

a typical day at work for Michael Kido. Photo courtesy Michael kido

A Kaua’i-born UH scientist was back on the Island to check on the health of our streams and the native critters who call them home. The news is not good, but there is hope

In an attempt to protect the integrity of stream environments, the Director of the Hawaii Stream Research Center at the University of Hawaii, Michael Kido, has recently been conducting expansive studies of watersheds across the state. He stopped by Kaua’i last month to present his latest analysis on their health, which is based upon the number of native species still thriving in the waterways.

One would be hard-pressed to find any native species in several of the designated 74 waterways studied on Kaua’i, according to results.

Remote locations such as Hanakapiai still contain native species, but sites such as Huleia have very few left.

Landscape modification – the removal or diversion of water – and agricultural practices are often the culprits, causing densities of these “indicator species” to decline.

“What you get at the end of this is you start to see what we see on Oahu – pretty much all native species are gone,” says the Kaua’i-born Kido.

Researching watersheds since the 1980’s, Kido says technology is advancing and that current studies focus on Hawaiian streams because they contain unique endemic species and are the primary conduits connecting the landscape and transferring nutrients from mountain to sea.

“Water quality will only be improved by holistic management approaches … so what happens mauka affects what occurs makai,” says Kido, whose presentation was hosted by the Kaua’i Planning and Action Alliance.

Adopting better management of Hawaii’s environment is key to Kido’s studies. Because when bio-diversity degrades, other sources are affected, including drinking water and reef ecosystems.

“Ever since I moved to Kaua’i in 2003, I have looked a lot to try to find information about water and watersheds on Kaua’i,” says KPAA president and CEO Diane Zachary regarding her reasons for inviting Kido to share his results with the community. “I moved here from Maui, where water was a huge issue. So moving here, where water seemed to be abundant, it was a blessing, but information was scarce.

I’m really delighted to have the information about what’s going on and how we can make sure they stay healthy.”

Improving resource management to preserve stress-free water systems will depend on the level of community involvement to encourage new technologies.

Kaua’i will benefit from more effective management and allocation of water-shed-based resources if emerging technologies are used, says Kido.

“Pollution is just one of the many issues facing social-ecological systems on Kaua’i, and responsible or effective management of these issues can be helped by use of the tools provided,” says Kido, a former Kaua’i Community College student.

Funding for such innovative research has come from agencies such us the federal Environmental Protection Agency in the past. The current studies were subsidized from a $3 million, three-year award from the Nation Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to help stimulate competitive research.

In addition to surveying the health of Hawaii’s watersheds, Kido has written several scientific articles pertaining to Hawaii stream ecology and environmental management at the University of Hawaii.

In fact, he penned the proposal that resulted in the designation of the Hanalei River as an American Heritage River.

“He has deep connections to Kaua’i, but knowledge about watersheds throughout the state,” says Zachary.

His quest for comprehensive watershed knowledge began at Limahuli Valley when a survey was administered in the early 1980s as the National Tropical Botanical Garden was creating a plan for the area.

“How many people have been in Limahuli Valley?” he asked audience members.

“How many have stuck your heads in the stream? If you haven’t, you ought to, it’s a whole other world down there.”

It’s a world that requires the community’s attention.

“You guys have a lot of challenges ahead as far as land management is concerned,” Kido says. “That’s what we’re here for. So this is the time to get on board and help us help you develop these tools to use for management.”