Disproportionately impacted by grazing, wildfire, and displacement by agriculture and human settlements, tropical leeward forests are among the most critically threatened of ecosystems in Hawai’i and worldwide. Despite their degraded state, Hawaiian leeward forests remain important refugia harboring high numbers of threatened species including over 25% of Endangered Hawaiian plant species.
Auwahi leeward forest was previously known to be among the most diverse of Hawaiian ecosystems. Currently, Auwahi is among the world’s most endangered tropical dry forests with 9 species listed as Endangered with USFWS and 7 listed as endangered with IUCN Red List status. Culturally, leeward forests are highly valued by native Hawaiians for ethnobotanical source materials, especially durable hardwoods for tools and weapons, and species with utilitarian, medicinal or religious significance.