Executive Summary

The Tropical Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center is a collaborative research, development, extension, and education center for tropical hardwood stewardship.

Tropical HTIRC History
In March, 2010 a workshop, "Emerging silvicultural technologies for Acacia koa restoration" was conducted in Hilo, Hawaii. The workshop identified the need for a research and extension program in native tree breeding and silviculture to support restoration and commercial planting of this valuable native species. In October of 2010, a second workshop in Hilo was held to formally establish the Tropical HTIRC and identify major goals for the first years of activity.

Problem Statement 
Tropical tree improvement and regeneration lags behind that of temperate regions, despite the global importance of tropical biodiversity, tropical timber production, and the growing need for large-scale approaches to restoration. We need to expand capacity in tropical hardwood tree improvement and regeneration to serve the needs of tropical regions. There are tremendous opportunities for a Hawaii-based tree improvement and regeneration program—for conservation and restoration but also commercial forestry applications. Despite current conditions, opportunities to restore koa forests and the ecosystem services that those forests would provide exist because of decreased economic viability of cattle production; marginal economic viability of low value forestry operations in low elevations; and high ecological, cultural and economic value of restored native forests. Lack of improved cultivars and knowledge of genetics, economic return, and silvicultural practices hinders reforestation of degraded land with native tropical hardwood species.

Vision Statement
Tropical HTIRC is the recognized leader in collaborative research, development, extension and education for sustainable production and conservation of Pacific Island hardwood tree species.

To advance the science of Pacific islands hardwood tree breeding, conservation, genetics, and silviculture for:

  • Sustainable production of forest products
  • Improved ecosystem services from native forests
  • Economic development for local communities
  • Cultural enhancement for indigenous cultures, local communities, and visitors


  • Create and disseminate knowledge on Pacific islands hardwood tree breeding and silviculture
  • Breed improved tropical hardwood tree lines with increased pest/disease resistance, growth rates, form, and wood quality for restoration and commercial production
  • Design improved systems for nursery production, plantation establishment, and the deployment of new materials
  • Develop strategies for conservation, restoration, utilization, and marketing of tropical hardwood resources
  • Develop extension and education programs to train consultant and industrial foresters, nursery practitioners, conservation biologists, and public and private landowners
  • Provide technical assistance to the private sector for developing improved Pacific islands hardwood germplasm

Tropical HTIRC Strategic Directions for 2011-2016
Our strategy is to start with Acacia koa, an ecologically, commercially and culturally valuable species in Hawaii. There is substantial interest in the public and private sector for using this fast-growing native species for restoration and commercial planting. For this species, our goals for 2011-2014 are as follows:

  • Apply classical selective breeding, genomics, molecular markers, advanced propagation, and silviculture to improve the genetic quality and planting success of Acacia koa.
  • Become a nexus for high caliber graduate education and training for future scientific leaders in tropical hardwood research throughout the Pacific.
  • Hire and nurture pre-eminent scientists who will build the credibility of the research program, be highly competitive for federal research grants, and become future leaders of the Tropical HTIRC.
  • Establish extension program with demonstration progeny and provenance trials and nursery production systems (e.g., on the Hawaii Experimental Tropical Forest).
  • Communicate and market the work of the Tropical HTIRC as the international leader in hardwood research and extension.
  • Develop stable funding for cost-share programs and work with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to increase public support.
  • Facilitate formation of a regional koa hardwood cooperative to research, extension, and marketing.
  • Facilitate information exchange by convening Tropical HTIRC partners and key stakeholders for workshops and field tours.
  • Develop regional advocacy for hardwood regeneration and management.
  • Expand investigations of the genetic diversity of koa populations using genomics and experimental progeny and provenance trials

High Priority Research, Development and Extension Needs

  • Develop seed zones to guide use of native seed and seedlings for restoration and forestry applications
  • Use molecular and traditional tools to identify the genetic basis of economically and ecologically important traits
  • Breed koa for traits such as improved growth, form, wood quality, pest/disease resistance, and abiotic stress resistance
  • Develop vegetative propagation techniques for elite clones of koa
  • Provide research on abiotic (e.g., cold, drought) and biotic (e.g., wilt, koa psyllid) stressors of koa
  • Increase native species seed availability, especially for koa, through expanded seed orchards across Hawai'i
  • Link nursery practices with field performance to develop seedling quality standards and improved nursery production methodologies
  • Transfer information and technical expertise on breeding, silviculture and nursery management among stakeholders
  • Develop silvicultural guidelines with scientifically-based information on site selection, site preparation, weed control, and fertilizer applications

 Acacia koa leaves and flowers7-28


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