Biocultural values of groundwater dependent ecosystems in Kona, Hawaii
Gibson, Veronica L., Leah L. Bremer, Kimberly M. Burnett, Nicole Keaka Lui, and Celia M. Smith
Ecology and Society 27(3):18, https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-
Groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs) are increasingly recognized as important conservation targets with linked ecological and social value. However, the social uses and values of GDEs have received relatively little research attention in the peerreviewed literature, precluding their greater inclusion in policy and management decisions. To help fill this gap, we provide a case study from Kona, Hawaiʻi, where multiple types of GDEs are abundant, to illustrate the diversity of social uses and values of GDEs. To explore these uses and values, we combined a literature review, archival analysis, and key-informant interviews with resource managers and lineal descendants connected to three prominent GDEs: Indigenous aquaculture systems, anchialine pools, and nearshore ecosystems. Interviews focused on current and historical uses and values of GDEs, contemporary management challenges and strategies, and desired visions for the future. Interviewees expressed a range of uses and values associated with GDEs, which we categorized using a Hawaiʻi-based cultural ecosystem service framework focused on social connections, physical and mental health, spirituality, and knowledge. Importantly, results suggest that the historical value of these systems directly informs current social value, and that restoration efforts are largely carried out through biocultural approaches, which emphasize the mutually reinforcing restoration of ecology and culture. We found that interviewees seek to restore ecosystem functions, cultural practice, and connection to place, and in some cases, local food production. Achieving these goals requires addressing multiple and interacting threats to these systems including invasive species, land-based sources of pollution, groundwater pumping, and climate change. Importantly, effective and equitable restoration also rests on recognition and amplification of Indigenous rights, knowledge, practice, and governance. These results provide important lessons for land and water management and policy in Hawaiʻi as well as other islands and coastal areas where GDEs have important linked social and ecological value.