The Hawaiian islands are having trouble with an invasive weed that is shading out natural plants and causes erosion.
The weed in question is miconia, a plant that has infested much of the Big Island and has been trying to gain a foothold on Oahu, Maui and Kauai. Miconia’s large leaves can block out sunlight for smaller plants, and its shallow root systems can increase erosion. A single miconia plant can produce eight million seeds a year.
“Miconia is the number one weed problem in the state of Hawaii that most people don’t know about because it’s impacting areas that people don’t have access to,” Leary told Hawaii News Now in an interview from the UH Maui Agricultural Center in Kula.
The solution developed by conservation scientists from the Hawaii Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management is called Herbicide Ballistic Technology or HBT. In layman’s terms, they are using a paintball gun with special paintballs filled with herbicide to kill the miconia.
The scientists from NREM take to the air in helicopters searching for the miconia and shoot it with the herbicide-filled paintballs. It has been likened to helicopter hunting for feral hogs in Texas. It appears that they have have some significant success according to Dr. James Leary of the University of Hawaii.
“We have protected over 3,000 acres, eliminating 5,000 miconia targets, and reducing what we call incipient populations, or satellite populations, by 80 percent,” he said.
Who would have ever thought that paintball guns could be put to such important conservation use.