Mangroves as alien species: the case of Hawaii

James A. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Prior to the early 1900s, there were no mangroves in the Hawaiian Archipelago. In 1902, Rhizophora mangle was introduced on the island of Molokai, primarily for the purpose of stabilizing coastal mud flats. This species is now well established in Hawaii, and is found on nearly all of the major islands. At least five other species of mangroves or associated species were introduced to Hawaii in the early 1900s, and while none has thrived to the degree of R. mangle, at least two have established self-maintaining populations (Bruguiera gymnorrhiza and Conocarpus erectus). Mangroves are highly regarded in most parts of the tropics for the ecosystem services they provide, but in Hawaii they also have important negative ecological and economic impacts. Known negative impacts include reduction in habitat quality for endangered waterbirds such as the Hawaiian stilt (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni), colonization of habitats to the detriment of native species (e.g. in anchialine pools), overgrowing native Hawaiian archaeological sites, and causing drainage and aesthetic problems. Positive impacts appear to be fewer, but include uses of local importance, such as harvesting B. gymnorrhiza flowers for lei-making, as well as some ecological services attributed to mangroves elsewhere, such as sediment retention and organic matter export. From a research perspective, possible benefits of the presence of mangroves in Hawaii include an unusual opportunity to evaluate their functional role in coastal ecosystems and the chance to examine unique or rare species interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-71
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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