KALAHEO — In an effort to keep feral pigs out of the 80-acre Kanaele Bog located in the mountains above Kalaheo, The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i has recently built a protective fence around the entire enclosure.
At 2,100 feet above sea level, Kanaele is the only low-elevation bog in the state and contains many endemic and endangered plant species.
“The fence represents a major conservation milestone for us,” Trae Menard, director of the Conservancy’s Kaua‘i program, said. “Kanaele is a natural treasure. Nothing like it exists anywhere on the planet.”
The fence, which cost $149,000, was designed and constructed by the conservancy in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and McBryde Sugar Co, a Kaua‘i-based subsidiary of Alexander & Baldwin Inc.
In 1993, a 10-year memorandum of understanding was signed by the conservancy and McBryde. As landowner, McBryde allowed the conservancy to construct the fence as a way to allow for the natural regeneration of the native plants.
The bog has a variety of low-growing sedges, stunted trees and unique plants, some of which are known to only live there; tiny endangered bog violets; the vivid haha‘aiakamanu, which consists of a stalk of cream-colored flowers streaked with purple; and carnivorous sundews that trap insects in their sticky leaves.
Honolulu-based photographer Nathan Yuen has hiked to the bog three times and said he supports conservation efforts there.
“Kanaele Bog is a very special place,” Yuen said. “It harbors some rare and endangered plants found nowhere else.”
A bog is a type of wetland maintained by high rainfall or groundwater levels. The soil is usually shallow, poorly drained and consists of partially decomposed vegetation. These unique conditions result in special bog-adapted plants that can exist in no other habitat.
Feral pigs have favored the bog because the moist soil allows for easier digging and rooting. But after the installation of the 6,552-foot fence, the pigs are no longer a threat to the fragile ecosystem, thus allowing the native bog vegetation to recover, Menard said.
Now that the pig situation has been dealt with, the weed problem needs to be addressed, he added.
Invasive plants such as the strawberry guava pose the biggest threat to this natural and endangered vegetation.
Menard said the weeds will be controlled by mechanical and chemical methods.
“The trick is to do it so there is no affect to the bog,” he said. “We will check the bog once a month for maintenance, but the weeds are going to be a constant battle.”
This summer, teens from the Youth Conservation Corps will hopefully help clear weeds, Menard said.
Besides approved volunteer groups, there will be no other public access.
For more information, visit www.nature.org/hawaii/