Something from Nothing

Posted by Keli'i Kotubetey on March 18, 2013

A few weeks ago about ten aloha `āina warriors from Wai`anae joined forces with the fishpond staff to brave the dense mangrove forests of He`eia with a purpose: gather posts and purlins for several traditional hale planned for Nānākuli and Wai`anae. Anakala Eric Enos and his crew from Ka`ala Farms led the way as they determined which logs, how big, and how long they needed to gather so they could eventually be used in the hale.

When Anakala Eric asked us about the possibility of using mangrove for his hale project, we were more than happy to say ‘yes’ because of mangrove’s destructive nature in He`eia fishpond and Hawaiian fishponds in general. In particular Rhizophora Mangle, or Red Mangrove, is the most prevalent mangrove specie in our fishpond. In the forest area where we cut the trees are protected from the wind and grow in straight lengths up to 30 feet high.  This is ideal for hale building. The mangrove also has natural tannins making it not-so-ono for bugs, borers, and termites.  Its nice to use a wood that has a natural bug repellent and can delay the cutting of our native forests for another day.

Mangroves are a diverse plant family, including about 110 individual species, ranging from shrubs to trees and spread across the tropic region of the earth.  Mangroves were introduced to Hawai`i (they never made it here naturally!) in the early 1900’s and to the He`eia wetland in the 1920’s. Brought here to capture erosion, the plant does that and more.  It has quickened the pace of sedimentation of the pond, its prop roots break apart our 800-year old wall, its thick forests decrease oxygenation of the pond, and it leaf litter create an environment for mangrove loving-organisms (Hawai`i has very few).

Mangrove is extremely valuable and vital to areas around the world where it is native. Because its a recent introduction to Hawai`i, it has become an invasive pest.  But not matter your opinion on mangrove, we all can agree that making lemonade out of lemons is a good thing.

Cutting Mangrove

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