Hawaii tropical high shrublands

Content Cover Image

Silversword (''Agryroxiphium sandwicense''),Haleakala Crater, Maui, Hawaii, USA. (Photograph by Derek Shook)

Biodiversity Features

Hawaiian high shrublands range from open shrublands to alpine grasslands and deserts. The upper slopes of the high volcanoes, Mauna kea, Mauna loa, Hualalai, and Haleakala, support shrubland habitats with species such as Chenopodium oahuense, Vaccinium reticulatum, Dubautia menziesii, and Santalum haleakalae. Subalpine grasslands, patchily distributed within and adjacent to the shrub zone, are dominated by tussock-forming species such as Deschampsia nubigena, Eragrostis atropioides, Panicum tenuifolium, and Trisetum glomeratum. On the highest peaks, cold and dry conditions create alpine deserts inhabited by silversword (Agryroxiphium sandwicense), Dubautia spp., and other alpine-adapted plants, as well as alpine-adapted invertebrate species. The Hawaiian nene goose (Branta sandvicensis) lives in high shrubland areas, and endangered Hawaiian dark-rumped petrels nest in burrows in subalpine and alpine cinderlands.

caption WWF

Current Status

Several important areas for conserving high shrublands that have no or incomplete protection have been identified by Sohmer and Gon: Leeward East Maui, Haleakala Summit of Maui (protected), Alpine summits (Hawaii), and the Pohakuloa-Saddle area of Hawaii.

Types and Severity of Threats

Although some large blocks of relatively intact high shrublands and alpine deserts still exist, overgrazing by domestic and feral livestock, wildfires, trampling from recreational activities, competition from introduced plants, removal of plants such as silverswords, and introduced ants that kill native invertebrate pollinators all pose significant threats to native species and communities. Alpine grasslands have been reduced in range, but still occupy more than 50 percent of their presumed original range.

caption Nene (''Branta sandvicensis''), Hawaii, USA. (Photograph by Phillip Coffey)

Conservation Partners

  • Hawaii Natural Heritage Program
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii

Justification of Ecoregion Delineation

The Hawaiian tropical high shrublands corresponds to Küchler’s unit 7 (Grassland, microphyllus shrubland, and barren). Omernik did not classify Hawaii, and Bailey clumped all of Hawaii into one unit.

Additional Information on this Ecoregion



Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the World Wildlife Fund. Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the World Wildlife Fund should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.






Fund, W. (2014). Hawaii tropical high shrublands. Retrieved from


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