Maui conservation efforts featured in new BBC Studios Series, The Green Planet
In the summer of 2021, a BBC film crew journeyed into East Maui and The Nature Conservancy’s Waikamoi Preserve to film segments for a new series called the Green Planet. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, the series explores the hidden worlds of plants. The final episode (which features Hawai’i conservation efforts) focuses on human’s complex relationships with plants. It looks at our reliance on them for the food we eat and the air we breathe and also how humans across the globe are finding new ways to help plants create a greener planet.
The Maui Invasive Species Committee (MISC) worked with the BBC to showcase efforts in combating invasive miconia in East Maui. Miconia, an ornamental plant from Central and South America, was introduced to Hawaiʻi in the 1970s. Its large purple and green leaves shade out other plants, while its shallow root systems and giant water drops increase erosion. In Tahiti, this purple plague inhabits over two-thirds of the island’s forests, contributing to the loss of native biodiversity.
MISC is working hard to ensure the same doesn’t happen here, and The Green Planet helps to tell its story to an international audience in its final episode called “Human Worlds.” MISC Public Relations and Education Specialist Serena Fukushima explains, “We need several tools to control miconia on Maui. Our staff controls miconia from the ground while also utilizing longline spraying and HBT in inaccessible areas.” HBT, or herbicide ballistic technology, is a technique developed by Dr. James Leary of UH-CTAHR that uses herbicide-filled paintballs and is featured in the episode. “Using helicopters, the trained team hovers next to a miconia plant on a cliff or hillside. They shoot the plant with the paintball, breaking the stem and allowing a small amount of herbicide to absorb into the tree, eventually killing it. This method reduces the amount of herbicide in the environment while removing the quick-spreading invasive plant.”
The BBC film crew spent a week on the ground with the MISC Hana Miconia Crew and in the air with HBT specialists to capture the multi-tiered efforts crews are taking to combat this invasive species. In The Nature Conservancy’s Waikamoi Preserve, the film crew follows Maui Nui Coordinator for the Plant Extinction Prevention Program, Hank Oppenheimer, who works to protect and perpetuate critically endangered native plant species.
A virtual episode screening will take place on Tuesday, July 26, from 2:00-3:30 p.m., allowing Hawaii residents to watch it first before its August 3rd release on PBS Hawaii and the PBS network. The screening is followed by a live question and answer panel featuring East Maui District Councilmember Shane Sinenci, MISC Operations Manager Adam Knox, Hana Miconia Crew Leader Aja Akuna, and Maui Nui Coordinator for the Plant Extinction Prevention Program, Hank Oppenheimer. Click here to register for the screening and panel.