The Hawaiian Islands are a uniquely diverse place on earth. Hawai‘i is the world’s most isolated island archipelago and was one of the last places on earth to be discovered and colonized by humans. The extreme isolation of the islands produced, through evolution and speciation, a remarkable diversity of species that are found nowhere else on the planet. Approximately 1,033 plant species, 10,000 invertebrates, and 140 birds are native to the Hawaiian Islands of which 87% of the plants, 95% of the invertebrates and 100% of the forest birds are endemic (found nowhere else on earth). These natural treasures are integral elements of the biological and cultural heritage of the Hawaiian Islands and their people.

Hawai‘i has also seen extraordinary rates of extinction and endangerment. Over 265 species of the Hawai‘i biota have gone extinct. Tragically, extinctions continue at a rate of at least one species per year. In the last three decades alone, half of Hawai‘i’s endangered forest bird species have disappeared, in all likelihood, lost forever to extinction. Currently there are 317 species federally listed as threatened or endangered. An additional 109 are listed as candidate species and species of concern. The need for research targeted towards solving resource management issues is tremendous. It is this recognition that led the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the USDA Forest Service Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry to establish the Hawaii Experimental Tropical Forest (HETF).

Until now, Hawaiian forests were the only forests in the United States where no experimental forest existed. This deprived Hawai‘i and the Pacific Islands of the benefits of research, education, and demonstration products that would arise from experimental forests. Establishment of an experimental forest will greatly increase opportunities for Hawaiian scientists as well as students of all ages to conduct projects on lands dedicated for that purpose. The HETF is the 80th experimental forest of the Forest Service’s experimental forest network.

View the timeline below to see how the HETF has changed since it was established!

The HETF is Officially Established!

March 23, 2007 –  The Hawai‘i Experimental Tropical Forest (HETF) is established through a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Forest Service and the State of Hawai‘i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. HETF comprises two units: the Laupāhoehoe Wet Forest and the Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a Dry Forest.

HETF Signing Ceremony

HETF Signing Ceremony

May 24, 2007

HIPPNET is initiated

2008 –  The Hawai‘i Permanent Plot Network (HIPPNET) is established for long-term monitoring of Hawaiian forests and their responses to changing climates and ecological disturbances.

Research Funding Expands

2009 –  $20 million fundraising effort led by the University of Hawai‘i expands HETF’s research capacity and helps HIPPNET gain inclusion into the international permanent plot monitoring network.

LAC is Formed

2010 –  The community-based Laupāhoehoe Advisory Council (LAC) is formed to provide local guidance and consultation to the Laupāhoehoe Forest Unit, similar to the advisory committee already formed in 2002 for the Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a Forest Unit.

Stream Gauges Installed

2011 –  Stream gauges are installed to better understand the inter-relationships between rainfall, ecosystem functions, and the people of Hawai‘i.


2012 – Blessing (Pule) of Laupāhoehoe facilities, which are dedicated to the conservation and restoration of Hawai‘i’s forest ecosystems through research, education, and demonstration.

Research Plots

2013 –  Research plots are established to monitor long-term impacts and control measures for the invasive strawberry guava plant.

‘Ōhi‘a Common Garden

2014 – The ‘Ōhi‘a Common Garden is established at Laupāhoehoe facilities as an ongoing restoration, demonstration, and research project.

The Akaka Foundation

2015 –  The Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests is created, becoming a vital partner of the HETF. The Foundation is named in honor of Hawaiian Senator Daniel Akaka, co-sponsor of the 1992 Hawai‘i Tropical Forest Recovery Act, which laid the foundation for the establishment of the HETF.

Forest Management Plan

2016 –  The Laupāhoehoe Forest Management Plan, designed to balance conservation and forest management with human uses, is finalized.

10th Anniversary

March, 23, 2017 –  The HETF celebrates its 10-year anniversary.