This section describes all the listed, non-listed wildlife in the vicinity of the Project, including common wildlife species, migratory bird species that are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Threatened and endangered species and aquatic biotas, such as coral reef and marine species, are also addressed in this section.
The analysis area for impacts to wildlife includes the wind farm sites and Kamalo Harbor. This consists of all potential effects on wildlife and wildlife habitats, including habitat loss and alteration and direct mortality within the actions of the Project.
Field surveys to document bird species within the area of the wind farm project will need to be addressed. No data is available about which bird species are living on the ridge of Kamalo Harbor. However, Molokai Forest Reserve is located relatively close to the project area; therefore, information from bird surveys conducted in the Forest Reserve can be used as a starting point. Table 1 summarizes native and non-native bird species observed during the studies in the Reserve.
Table 1. Summary of Forest Bird Detections for Individual Transects at Kalaupapa National Historical Park for Surveys Conducted March-April 2004 and March-May 2005.
Hawaii has 317 documented bird species, which include introduced, indigenous, and endemic residents, as well as wintering and breeding migrants and birds that only pass through Hawaiian waters in migration. The Hawaiian Islands and, consequently, Molokai, is situated within the West Pacific Flyway, which is one of the world’s main migratory routes.
The main bird species that move along this flyway, which consequently have high risks of being impacted by the Project are shorebirds (Bristle-thighed Curlew, Plover, Hawaiian Silt), waterfowl (Ducks and Geese), and seabirds (Albatrosses, Terns, Shearwaters, Petrels, and Gulls) (Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, 2018).
Shorebirds (Bristle-thighed Curlew, Plover, Hawaiian Silt):
Shorebirds are a group of birds that live along coastlines and in a variety of marine and freshwater wetlands. On the Hawaiian Islands, shorebirds are principally migratory. They travel across the Pacific Ocean and typically appear from August through April, with peaks in diversity and number during October and November (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2016).
The Bristle-thighed Curlew is found in small numbers wintering throughout the tropical Pacific islands. The world population is less than 10,000, with the principal part found on the Hawaiian Islands. During its winter molt in Hawaii, the British-thighed Curlew loses its ability to fly, making them extremely vulnerable to human actions and predators.
The Pacific Golden Plover is indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands and is ranked by the U.S Shorebird Conservation Strategy as a species of great concern. This species winters across the tropical Pacific from Hawaii to Japan. They are commonly found in uplands, parks, pastures, and open wetlands. Pacific Golden Plovers have high fidelity regarding their winter grounds (returning year after year).
From 1986 to 2004, the average number of Pacific Golden Plovers in Hawai’i State has been about 1000 individuals across the main Hawaiian Islands. Estimated wintering density range from 0.22 to 44.7 birds per hectare in wild habitats, and 1.4 birds per hectare in developed areas (Department of Land and Natural Resources, 2005).
The Hawaiian Silt is endemic to the main Hawaiian Islands and generally found in wetland habitats below 200 meters elevation on all the main islands. On Molokai, the southern coastal wetlands and playa lakes are essential habitats.
The island-wide population, based on semi-annual counts, suggests that the population is stable or slightly increasing. The main threat to this species is habitat loss due to shifting in wetland agriculture or other activities that reduce the number of wetlands habitats (Department of Land and Natural Resources, 2005).
Close to 30 species of migratory waterfowl winter in the Hawaiian Islands from September to May. These species are typically associated with wetland habitats. The most common winter migrants that are observed in Hawaii are Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Mallard, and American Wigeon.
Threats to waterfowl include loss and degradation of wetland habitats and the introduction of non-native plants and non-native animals. To date, no waterfowl species have been reported as fatalities at operational wind facilities. However, a wetland is located close to the project area; consequently, waterfowl can be found within the region and can be impacted by the wind farm (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2013).
Millions of central Pacific seabirds congregate on the Hawaiian Islands. They nest in burrows and cliffs, on the ground, and in trees and shrubs. During the nesting season, adult seabirds make frequent trips between nesting colonies and the oceans to forage. Seabirds that bread in the Hawaiian Islands disperse after the breeding season to waters elsewhere in the Pacific, with some exceptions for some species that are considered residents.
Threats to seabirds include invasive species, interactions with fisheries, pollution (oil spills), habitat loss and degradations, and climate change. These disturbances can cause nesting seabirds to abandon their nests and leaving their eggs to predators, for example. In some cases, it can even lead to the complete breeding failure of a seabird colony (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2016).
Wedge-tailed shearwaters, great frigatebirds, and Laysan albatross have been documented as fatalities at operational wind facilities in Hawaii. These species are addressed below.
The Wedge-tailed Shearwater is indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands and is categorized as a species of low concern. Its population in Hawaii is estimated at 270,000 breeding pairs and breeds throughout the northwest Hawaiian Islands and offshore islets of most of the main Hawaiian Islands, including Molokai. The biggest management concern for this species is the attraction to nighttime lighting (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2016).
The great frigatebird is indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands and is ranked by the North American Waterbird Conservation Plan as a species of moderate concern. Great frigaterbirds do not breed on the main Hawaiian Islands, although large numbers roost on offshore islets of the main islands, including Molokai. Its population is estimated at 10,000 breeding pairs.
The Laysan albatross is indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands and is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List. It breeds in large numbers across all the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, as well as a small population on Kaua’i, O’ahu, and Moloka’i. Its population is estimated at greater than 590,000 pairs. One of the main threats to this species is collisions with human-made structures, such as buildings, antennas, lights, wind turbines (Department of Land and Natural Resources, 2005).
This section describes the threatened and endangered species potentially occurring on Molokai and in the vicinity of the Project. Eight threatened, and endangered have the potential to occur within the project area and Kamalo harbor, including
The Hawaii hoary bat, Newell’s shearwater, Hawaiian goose, Hawaiian coot, Hawaiian stilt, Hawaiian moorhen, Sea turtles (Green and Hawksbill), and the Hawaiian picture-wing flies (Table 2) (Fish and Wildlife Services, 2010).
Table 2. Threatened and Endangered Species Potentially Impacted by Wind Farm Facilities on the Hawaiian Islands
The Hawaiian Hoary Bat is Hawaii’s only native terrestrial mammal and is found in both wet and dry areas from sea level to 13,000 feet. Typically, this species feeds over streams, bays, along the coast, over lava flows, or at forest edges. The Hawaiian hoary bat is an insectivore, and prey items include a variety of non-native night-flying insects.
Its breeding activity takes place between April and August. Confirmed reports of the Hawaiian hoary bat are known from all the main islands. Today, the largest known breeding populations are thought to occur on Kauai and Hawaii, although populations persist on Oahu and Molokai.
Relatively few researches have been done on the Hawaiian hoary bat, and data regarding its habitat and population status are very limited. Population estimates for this species range from hundreds to a few thousand. The main threats to this species are the reduction in tree cover, habitat loss, increase in pesticide use, decrease in prey availability, and predation (Betsy, 2017).
Figure 1. Count of the Hawaiian Hoary Bat on the Molokai Island for the Year 2017.
Regarding Molokai, very few bats are observed on the wind farm site. The mainly frequented area is the Kalaupapa National Historical Park, with approximatively 500 to 1500 bats seen for the year 2017 (Figure 1). Therefore, very few impacts would be observed for this species, as most Hawaiian hoary bats are located on the opposite side of Molokai.
The Newell’s shearwater is a migratory bird and endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. It captures its prey by pursuit-plunging, a unique foraging method among warm-water seabirds. Its breeding period starts in early April and ends in October.
The main threats that this species is exposed are a loss of breeding habitat, predations by introduced mammals, and historical hunting by humans. Other risks include collisions with power lines and other human-made structures, disorientation, and fall out associated with light attraction (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2016).
No data are available for the exact locations where the Newell shearwater was observed on Molokai, but this species can be affected by the Project according to Table 2.
The Hawaiian goose is the only surviving endemic goose in the Hawaiian Islands. This species, which is sedentary and mostly terrestrial, nests from sea level to high elevation in a variety of habitats, including beach strands, shrubland, grassland, and old lava flows.
The Hawaiian goose typically nests between October and March. Its main threats are from predations by non-native mammals, lack of access to seasonally lowland habitats, and insufficient nutritional resources. Given its preferred habitats and the type of vegetation on the project area (mainly shrubland), high chances are to observe this species within or around the wind farm area.
The Hawaiian coot is a non-migratory species endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. This species is associated with lowland wetland habitats that have emergent vegetation with open water, from sea level up to 850 feet. Hawaiian coots nest mainly on open freshwater.
Biannual counts approximated the total population on the main islands about 2000 birds, with the highest numbers on Oahu, Maui, and Kauai. The primary threats for this species are a reduced amount of wetlands habitat and predations from non-native mammals. The wetland situated near the project area will increase interactions with this species during and after the implementation of the wind farm (Department of Land and Natural Resources, 2005).
The Hawaiian stilt is an endemic subspecies of the black-necked stilt. Hawaiian stilts are associated with a variety of aquatic habitats, primary within the lower elevation coastal plains of Hawaii. Nesting generally occurs from mid-February through August on low growing vegetation areas.
The Hawaiian stilt is found on all of the main Hawaiian Islands. Biannual surveys from 1998 to 2007 documented an average Hawaiian stilt population of 1,484 birds. On Molokai, most of the Hawaiian stilts are observed on the southern coastal wetlands and playa lakes, which are essential habitats for this species.
This location is within the area of the wind farm project. The main threats that the Hawaiian stilt is faced with are habitat loss, introduced mammal predators, modification of wetlands habitats, and invasive plant species (Department of Land and Natural Resources, 2005).
The Hawaiian moorhen is a non-migratory subspecies endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. This species is mainly associated with lowland wetland habitats. They typically nest over shallow water and mostly throughout the whole year, but the breeding activity is concentrated between March and August. Statewide population counts average the number of Hawaiian moorhens around 300 birds.
On Molokai, given the species’ preference for densely vegetated wetlands, observations of the Hawaiian moorhen were made on the south side of the island, close to the wind farm site. Similar to the rest of Hawaiian native waterbirds, the main threats for the Hawaiian moorhen are plain wetlands loss, introduced mammal predators, and non-invasive plants that reduce open water, mudflats, or shallows (Department of Land and Natural Resources, 2005).
These species are found mainly throughout the world’s tropical oceans, principally in coral reefs. They feed primarily on sponges, sea anemones, and jellyfish. Regarding the Hawaiian Islands, they are found in a minimal number, around 100 females. They start nesting in May and can lay up to 5 nests per season.
The Green and Hawksbill turtles are threatened like other sea turtles by the loss of nesting and feeding habitats, excessive egg collection, fishery-related mortality, pollution, and coastal development. Regarding Molokai, no exact surveys have been conducted for these species, but the presence of the reef in the Kamalo Harbor can increase the potential chances of finding these two turtles’ species in the area of the Project (WWF, 2019).
No data is available regarding the coral reef and the fish species present in the Kamalo Harbor. One of the main reasons is the low activity of this harbor. Nevertheless, a survey will need to be conducted to identify which species are living in this area and evaluate the potential threats of the Project to these species.
Figure 2. Vegetation Map for the Kawela-Kamalo Ridge-to-Reef on the Island of Molokai
Existing vegetation conditions in the project area are based on botanical surveys conducted in the wind farm site in 2013 by the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
According to Figure 2, the project area is mostly constituted of A’alo’i dry shrubland (light green color), Kiawe woodland with alien grass understory (blue color), and no vegetation or very sparse grasses and shrubs (light grey). The darker green and orange parts are not included in the wind farm project, and therefore mixed native mesic shrubland and wet or mesic will not be impacted by the Project.
The Kamahu’ehu’e fishpond is located at the base of the ridge, where the wind farm is projected to be implemented. However, no information is available about the shape, uses, and species of the pond. A baseline study will be needed to make sure that the wind farm project located on the ridge will not adversely affect the pond’s ecosystem.