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Hawaii and the U.S. Associated Islands in the Pacific Ecological Observatory (PNEON)

Regional boundaries

The Hawaiian Islands, stretching over 1,500 miles from Kure Atoll to the Big Island of Hawaii, are home to one of the most remarkable ecological systems on the planet. Globally recognized as a unique biogeographical province, the species and ecosystems of Hawaii's land and sea, are distinguished by their uniqueness - the vast majority are found nowhere else on Earth. Similarly, the Pacific islands of American Samoa and Micronesia (Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands) have high levels of relatively intact biodiversity represented in both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. These islands have coral reef ecosystems whose biodiversity exceeds that of the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Hawaiian Archipelago combined. These ecosystems are among the most sensitive to the impacts of human intrusions and long term climate changes and the people of these islands, dependent upon the diverse natural resources, are among the most heavily affected culturally and economically by anthropogenic disturbance.

Map of the Hawaii and the US-affiliated Islands

map of Hawaii and the US-affiliated Islands


Kenneth Y. Kaneshiro, University of Hawaii at Manoa,
Jo-Ann C. Leong, University of Hawaii at Manoa,
Michael G. Hadfield, University of Hawaii at Manoa,
Donald Price, University of Hawaii at Hilo,
Michael Parsons, University of Hawaii at Hilo,
Robert Kinzie III, University of Hawaii at Manoa,
Sue Jarvi, University of Hawaii at Hilo,
Robert Richmond, University of Hawaii at Manoa,
David Duffy, University of Hawaii at Manoa,
Bruce Wilcox, John A. Burns School of Medicine,
Paul Jokiel, University of Hawaii at Manoa,

Organizational Status

Our first regional meeting was held March 23rd, 2004. The objectives of the meeting were to establish the Pac-NEON consortia (universities & colleges, field research stations, and region state/federal agencies), to inventory existing infrastructure in the regions, to maintain linkages with the National NEON initiative, to build a plan for a regional NEON, and to conduct general organizational activities.

After some discussion, the group decided on the following:

Members of the Pacific NEON consortium will collaborate in addressing a series of broad scale fundamental ecological questions that were outlined in the NSF description of the National NEON objectives. Pac-NEON will consist of an array of sites based at and supported by universities, field stations, LTER sites, national parks, marine laboratories, federal/state/local agencies, field stations, nature preserves, and museums in the Pacific region. It will include sites in Hawaii and the U.S. Affiliated Islands. The listing of the consortium members will be posted on the website for the Pacific NEON.

Ken Kaneshiro and Jo-Ann Leong will continue to coordinate the effort to develop a NEON in the Pacific Region. Working groups were organized to identify the major ecological and environmental challenges for the Pacific Region in keeping with those highlighted in the National Research Council Report, "NEON: Addressing the Nation's Environmental Challenges." In particular, each group was charged with exploring how these challenges might be addressed for the region and what specific scientific questions should be considered in the Pacific NEON. Since the biological resources and infrastructure requirements for the different research areas will overlap, an Integration Team was formed to ensure that the effort in the Pacific region was collaborative and mindful of the different resources (cultural and scientific) in the area. There will also be working groups on cyberinfrastructure and informatics, and a Training and Capacity Development group. The Training and Capacity Development working group is charged with developing a plan to ensure the inclusion of all scientific and cultural components of the Pacific ecosystems in the Pacific NEON. The members of this group are: (Group TCD)

The next Pac-NEON meeting will be held on May 7, 2004.

More Information Available At


At the National NEON meeting at Front Royal, Virginia, Hawaii and the US affiliated islands in the Pacific were grouped with South Florida and the US-affiliated islands in the Caribbean. It appears now that Hawaii and the US affiliated islands in the Pacific may want to organize their NEON region as a separate and distinct region. The large area covered by the region and the distance between South Florida (the main organizing unit in the Caribbean Basin) and Hawaii (the main organizing unit in the Pacific Basin) might warrant such a separation. There is another reason that validates this separation. The Pacific Island terrestrial biotas are part of the Paleotropics, while Florida and the Caribbean are in the Neotropics. Hawaii and the Pacific Islands are the only US territories that are in the Paleotropics. While the differences between the marine biota of the Indo-Pacific and the East Atlantic-Caribbean are not as great as between the two terrestrial realms, the marine biotas are still substantially different, systematically, evolutionarily and especially in terms of biodiversity.

map of NEON regions view high-resolution version (3865 x 5876, 1.4 MB PDF)

NEON Regions

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