The recent vote by the University of Hawaii Board of Regents to continue operation of the Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC) is welcome news for the conservation community in Hawaii and the Pacific.
We realize that this was a difficult decision in light of severe budgetary constraints. Nevertheless, even a modest investment at this time will not only allow PBRC to continue its efforts in conservation research and management, but also position the university to attract federal and private research money to expand our understanding of the fragile island ecosystem in which we live.
Hawaii is home to unique plants and animals, both on the land and in the sea, that have evolved here and are found nowhere else. In fact, the number of unique species per unit area in Hawaii is so high that it is recognized as a hotspot of biodiversity. There are more species from Hawaii that are listed on the federal endangered species list than anywhere else in the U.S. Hawaii is considered to be the endangered species capital of the world.
The island ecosystems of Hawaii are unique natural laboratories that provide a competitive advantage to PBRC researchers seeking outside funds to study biodiversity and sustainability. In Hawaii, where the distance from the top of the mountain to the near-shore coral reef is often less than a couple of miles, the opportunities for studying ecosystems are truly amazing. This mountain-to-sea approach can be used to develop models of larger, more complex biological systems that are more difficult to study.
In addition to research that addresses real-world environmental problems such as sustainability, climate change, water resources, pollution, pest management, energy, etc., the faculty, staff and students of PBRC have played and continue to play important roles in helping to build the capacity of organizations such as the Hawaii Conservation Alliance (HCA) to become active participants in addressing global environmental problems. The HCA is a cooperative collaboration of conservation leaders representing 19 government, education and nonprofit organizations. Collectively we are responsible for managing the biodiversity of Hawaii’s lands and waters. We also represent people who work and use the land and water for social, cultural and agricultural purposes.
The PBRC has provided critical leadership in the larger conservation community through its support of the HCA. In 1993 Fred Greenwood, former director of PBRC, took the lead in administering the Secretariat for Conservation Biology, which evolved into the current HCA.
On behalf of the HCA partnership, I congratulate the University of Hawaii in making the critical decision to retain PBRC as an independent research unit. Let us seize this opportunity to continue supporting effective biodiversity and conservation research in Hawaii.