As the sun nears the horizon and the clouds begin to envelope the mountain, the sights and sounds begin to slowly dissolve as the thickness of the upslope fog* increases. After a day of foraging for insects under blue sky, the curious ʻelepaio stops singing and finds shelter.
*Clouds form upslope in Hawaiʻi - as air is forced up the mountain by frequent trade-winds, the air cools, causing water vapor in the air to turn into tiny liquid water droplets. These water droplets are efficiently stripped from the air by vegetation. This cloud water interception provides an important water resource for the people of Hawaiʻi.
From just below a narrow ridge near the most prominent peak around, the last remaining ʻōhiʻa trees disappear from the horizon and the city and farms below, seen only a few seconds prior, become distant enough to imagine that they are no longer there. The cool mist begins soaking the trees and branches, and wai (water) slowly dissolves into the mountain. Droplets grow into rain drops and rainfall begins within the fog. As water makes its way to the soil, the roots of Caly and Caly's friends absorb it eagerly. Satisfied, they await a new day of sunshine.
Eventually, the rising sun exposes the clouds to morning light and slowly evaporates the tiny water droplets remaining in the air. Out of the mist emerges Caly with large, bright green leaves, reaching out for the first rays of sun as they filter through the cracks from the trees above.
But each day is filled with challenges. As invasive plants displace native vegetation, feral pigs feast on vulnerable plants, and climate change disrupts weather patterns, Caly and many of Caly's friends face extinction without the help of resource managers.
Explore Cyanea calycina
Learn more about Caly and her species.
Who is Caly?
Caly is an individual in the Cyanea calycina species. Cyanea calycina is a critically endangered species in the Campanulaceae family, endemic to the Island of O‘ahu. There are over 140 known Hawaiian species in the campanulaceae family, all thought to be descendents of a single arrival about 13 million years ago. This rapid evolution from one to over 140 species is thought to be one of the largest plant radiations in the world. All species in this family have been impacted by changes brought by human colonization of the Hawaiian islands. For instance, of the 70 known Cyanea species, collectively named hāhā, over 40 are endangered and 20 are presumed extinct.
Where does Caly live?
Caly lives in the wao akua in the Wai‘anae Range on O‘ahu, clinging to steep terrain under the shade from the plants above. The wao akua is a distant mountain region with lush forests, sustained by the capture of cloud water by the surfaces of vegetation, which collects on leaves and drips to the soil. It was believed by ancient Hawaiians to be inhabited only by spirits, and the wao kanaka just below was reserved for people to utilize resources collected from the forest. The wao akua is a special, mystical place that harbored the creation of unique species that inhabit this realm, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth.
Today, the wao akua retains much of its mystical nature, with treacherous mountain terrain being one natural barrier to human development. However, much has changed, and some species that once thrived there are now threatened with the prospect of extinction without sustained intervention by resource managers.
Continuous threats include invasive plants that spread rapidly and displace native vegetation and invasive animals such as feral pigs, rats, and mosquitoes. In addition, climate change is expected to further strain species in their natural habitat, with native species needing to migrate to higher elevations.
Upper-elevation forests on O‘ahu and the other Hawaiian islands not only possess unique biodiversity found nowhere else in the world, they also act as vital watershed resources, and serve as an important cultural space for native Hawaiians. For all of these reasons, conservation of the remaining native forests is a major priority for the resource managers in Hawaiʻi.