Monday, 4 August 2014

First Island Biology conference, Honolulu, Hawaii 7-11 july 2014

The University of Hawaii at Manoa (Honolulu, Hawai’i) hosted the very first international conference on "Island Biology" from July 7th - 11th. As indicated in the opening session by the conference chair Donald Drake (University of Hawaii at Manoa) and co-chairs José-Maria Fernandez-Palacios (La Laguna University, Canary Islands) and Christoph Kueffer (ETH Zürich), the conference was organized in response to the major new wave of island biological research being done in diverse fields, to the incredible pace at which data are being generated on islands around the world, and the need to build up on that momentum and strengthen the emergence of a truly global island research community. This will be luckily the first of a regular series of meetings that will be held every three or four years, at which island biologists can come together, share insights, and develop collaborations that will accelerate the pace and effectiveness of island research and conservation.

The conference gathered ca. 400 participants and 250 presenters from more than 35 countries; 170 talks were given in 33 concurrent sessions and 78 posters were presented in one dedicated session.

The opening ceremony was held on Monday the 7th, followed by plenary talks on the birth, development and importance of island biology, given successively by Ann Sakai (University of California, Irvine), Rosemary Gillespie (University of California, Berkeley), Peter and Rosemary Grant (Princeton University, New Jersey), Robert Ricklefs (University of Missouri, St Louis), and by some Hawaiian reflections by Dieter Mueller Dombois (UH, Honolulu) and Sheila Connant (UH, Honolulu).
The different sessions started on Tuesday the 8th. Ravahere presented a poster in the poster session held during the afternoon, dealing with the forest structure, composition and dynamics along the altitudinal gradient set up on mount Aorai for the “MOVECLIM” project. He received some good feedbacks from the audience, fruitful comments and interesting questions (Photo 1). 
Photo1: Poster entitled "Forest structure, composition and  dynamics along a temperature and humidity gradient in the island of Tahiti (South Pacific)
On Thursday the 10th, during a session dedicated to climate change, Jean-Yves Meyer gave a talk on the patterns of fern diversity and abundance along the same elevational gradient. He highlighted the fact that ferns and their allies are taxa of high taxonomical and ecological importance on islands, playing key roles in ecosystem dynamics (e.g. primary and secondary successions after natural and anthropogenic disturbances), but often under-studied thus should received more attention. He suggested that similar transects should be done in other islands to have a more global view of patterns of diversity and changes in abundances and distribution ranges, especially in regard to the potential effects of climate change. 
In the same session, Rosalina Gabriel presented preliminary results on the first inter island comparisons for the Moveclim project including 5 islands. Her talk was entitled 'Variation in bryophyte community structure at different spatial scales along five elevational gradients in islands (Photo 2).

Photo 2:  Rosalina Gabriel presenting the preliminary results for bryophytes.
A poster from Claudine Ah-Peng presenting the MOVECLIM project and network was also shown during this conference (Photo 3)
Photo 3: Rosalina Gabriel and Jean Yves Meyer, Moveclim collaborators.

We had the opportunity to visit the Bernice Puahi Bishop Museum and were offered guided tours by Museum staff and curators to the numerous natural and cultural collections on Thursday afternoon. The day was closed by a planetarium show on Polynesian voyaging followed by a traditional dinner held in the museums garden.
The conference ended Friday afternoon with discussions about the opportunity and feasibility to create a new society (“Island Biology International Society”), a new scientific journal (“Island Biology”) and a website. Three archipelagoes were proposed as potential sites for the next Island Biology conference, the Seychelles, the Azores and the Canary Islands, praised in 5 minute talks by their representatives, respectively Gérard Rocamora (University of Seychelles), Paulo Borges (Universidad dos Azores), and José Maria Fernandez-Palacios (La Laguna University, Canary Islands).
Pre- and post-conference fieldtrips were also organized on the island of O'ahu as well as on the other Hawaiian Islands (Kaua’i and Maui). Jean-Yves and Rava attended a one day trip organized by Tom Ranker and Clifford Morden (University of Hawaii at Manoa) in the Waianae Range on Sunday the 6th, along the trail to mount Palikea (ca. 945m asl) located on the north west side of O'ahu. 

We were able to observe rare and threatened endemic plant species along the trail, as well as restoration and conservation projects (e.g. exclosures) managed by the Nature Conservancy Hawaii, and an alien slug control program led by Stephanie Joe (O'ahu Army Natural Ressource Program / Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, UH) in that area. Jean-Yves joined the 3 days field-trip to Kaua’i led by Don Drake, including a 6 hours hike crossing the high elevation Alaka’i swamp at ca. 1200 m dominated by the small sedge Oreobolus furcatus…also found in Tahiti and restricted to its highest summit, Mount Orohena, at 2241 m (Photo 4)! More photos of plants of this ecosystem: 

Photo 4: Alaka'i swamp, 1200 m

Ravahere Taputuarai, Jean-Yves Meyer & Rosalina Gabriel

Photo credit: JYM

Read more ...