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Natural and Cultural Ecosystems


Our mission

Kamehameha Schools' Natural and Cultural Ecosystems Division is dedicated to elevating natural, cultural, and water resources management throughout ‘Āina Pauahi as well as uplifting key ‘āina and sustainability systems that impact our lāhui across the pae ‘āina.

Our core priorities

Natural Resources

Protecting our natural resources, including watershed forests, native plant and animal species (many of which are threatened or endangered), marine resources, and other unique ecosystems.

Cultural Resources

Documenting, stewarding and restoring wahi kūpuna (ancestral places), caring for koehana (artifacts), protecting iwi kūpuna (burial sites and remains), and managing online digital repositories.

Water Resources

Caring for and maintaining water resources like agricultural water systems, wells, and streams that support food production as well as healthy native ecosystems.


Tracking our sustainability efforts in alignment with the Aloha+ Challenge in areas like clean energy, local food, natural resource management, solid waste reduction, smart/sustainable communities as well as green workforce/education.

Our ‘ōiwi approach to stewardship

I Hawai‘i no nā Hawai‘i i ka ‘āina.
Hawai‘i — its land and resources — makes us Hawaiian.

The genealogies of our people recognize a shared ancestry with our islands and all the native life that exist upon them: plants, birds, fish, insects, weather systems, and aquifers. Just as these natural elements have evolved together over many thousands of years to shape the unique native ecosystems and landscapes of Hawai‘i, so too have these native landscapes shaped our cultural identity, traditions, and practices as a people.

We lead the management of natural and cultural resources on ‘Āina Pauahi, as well as stewardship beyond our lands by supporting indigenous and community-based ‘āina efforts.

Our impact

‘Āina Pauahi is home to:

  • More than 25% of the watershed forests that sustain Hawai‘i's freshwater aquifers
  • 40,059 acres of watershed protected by conservation fences
  • More than 305 threatened and endangered native species, with 55 of these rare species being actively managed for recovery
  • 4,759 documented wahi kūpuna sites, with 48 sites being actively managed

Learn more about our stewardship

Our work

Partnering with the Ko‘olau Mountain Watershed Partnership and the Department of Land and Natural Resources to install conservation fencing near the summit of Waiawa ahupua‘a.

State of Hawai‘i 30 x 30 Watershed Initiative

In partnership with the State of Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, we are installing protective conservation fences in key watershed areas like Waiawa, O‘ahu and Keawanui, Moloka‘i that will contribute to the State's goal of protecting 30% of high-priority watersheds by 2030. The fences protect intact native forests, which capture and replenish our aquifers and streams. This initiative also protects our threatened and endangered species found nowhere else in the world. The fences on ‘Āina Pauahi contribute 40,059 acres of protected watershed towards the state's 253,000 acre goal. We aim to have 51,000 acres under protection by 2026.

A Three Mountain Alliance staff member with Delissea argutidentata keiki.

Reviving a native plant once thought extinct

In March 2021, a small population of Delissea argutidentata, a native species considered extinct, was rediscovered on ‘Āina Pauahi in a remote section of mauka Kona on Hawai‘i Island. The native plant was last seen in the area in the early 1970s and was presumed to have been destroyed by cattle and other ungulates. Over the course of a year, and with the support of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Three Mountain Alliance, and the Volcano Rare Plant Facility, we propagated and successfully outplanted 30 keiki from seeds found on the rediscovered plants in order to establish a new protected population.

KS restored Hāpaiali‘i heiau at Kahalu‘u Ma Kai.

Wahi Kūpuna Restoration at Kahalu‘u Ma Kai

For years, we have been working to restore the wahi kūpuna at Kahalu‘u Ma Kai, which served as the center for ali‘i learning and is home to five heiau – Hale o Papa, Ke‘ekū, Hāpaiali‘i, Mākole‘ā, and Kapuanoni. Recently, we melded contemporary technology like drones and 3D mapping and ‘ike kūpuna to repair Hāpaiali‘i and Ke‘ekū Heiau, which had been impacted by waves and storms over the years. Click here to learn more about the restoration process of Hāpaiali‘i through this interactive story map.

KS Cultural Resources Manager Trever Duarte assists with installing the Waiahukini display at the KS Hawai‘i campus.

Partnering with Bishop Museum to steward koehana

We partner with the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum's Department of Anthropology to steward roughly 50,000 koehana (artifacts) collected from KS ‘āina. The partnership involves an internship program that provides students and emerging professionals with hands-on training in artifact curation. Interpretive displays created by the interns have been showcased in the Hawai‘i Hall atrium. Most recently, an exhibit was installed at KS' Hawai‘i campus, focused on evolving fishhook technologies based on koehana from Wai ‘Ahukini located on KS ‘āina in Ka‘ū. In this case, we brought the koehana back home to Hawai‘i Island and provided our haumāna an opportunity to engage with these important cultural objects and celebrate their heritage. To date, 22 interns have completed the Koehana Internship Program, with six interpretive displays being created and displayed at the Museum. This effort has been responsible for the rehousing and inventorying of roughly 25,000 artifacts originating from KS ‘āina across the Pae ‘āina. Learn more about koehana by clicking here.

In the news

Oct. 10, 2022

Rare plant thought to be extinct discovered on KS Hawai‘i Island land

Kamehameha Schools, the State of Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and Three Mountain Alliance (TMA) discovered a small population of Delissea argutidentata, a plant thought to be extinct in the wild.

May 2, 2022

KS blessing marks official start of Punalu‘u Stream Restoration Project

Kamehameha Schools gathered with nearly 50 Punalu‘u residents and community leaders Saturday to mark the official start of the Punalu‘u Stream Restoration Project, which aims to use ahupua‘a management strategies to provide flood control and restore a natural ecology to the stream.

April 22, 2022

Six ways KS is cultivating a sustainable Hawai‘i

Each April, the world celebrates Earth Month by shining a spotlight on sustainability which is central to a strong Native Hawaiian identity, resilient communities and a thriving lāhui. Click the story link to read some of the ways KS is cultivating a sustainable Hawai‘i to ensure the well-being of future generations.

April 12, 2021

KS, Clearway break ground for solar project in Waiawa

Kamehameha Schools produces more renewable energy on its lands than any other private landowner in Hawai‘i with facilities generating more than 100 megawatts of clean energy across the pae ‘āina. In partnership with Clearway Energy, the newest project located on ‘Ᾱina Pauahi in the ahupua‘a of Waiawa will be among the first utility-scale battery storage and solar facilities on the island.

February 27, 2019

Scientists Find Strong Potential in Indigenous Agriculture Under Climate Change

Hawai‘i Public Radio – Hawai‘i could produce nearly all the food it consumes by using lands traditionally cultivated by native Hawaiians. So says a new study published in the March Journal Nature Sustainability. The authors say some of these agricultural lands have the potential to produce food even with climate change. Researchers from Kamehameha Schools, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and the U.S. Geological Survey have mapped lands on all major islands traditionally used by native Hawaiians to produce food.

June 22, 2018

Kamehameha Schools signs deal to protect dozens of endangered species on Big Island

Hawai‘i News Now - A plan 20 years in the making to protect endangered species on the Big Island is now a reality.
Kamehameha Schools, the state and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed a Safe Harbor Agreement. The deal, along with other associated permits and licenses, is the nation’s largest signed with a single landowner and covers 32,207 acres of land across Keauhou and Kilauea forest lands.