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The following is the established format for referencing this article:
Bremer, L. L., L. Mandle, C. Trauernicht, P. Pascua, H. L. McMillen, K. Burnett, C. A. Wada, N. Kurashima, S. Quazi, T. Giambelluca, P. Chock, and T. Ticktin. 2018. Bringing multiple values to the table: assessing future land-use and climate change in North Kona, Hawaiʻi. Ecology and Society 23(1):33.
Synthesis, part of a special feature on Ecosystems and Society: Interactions Among Climate, Land Use, Ecosystem Services, and Society

Bringing multiple values to the table: assessing future land-use and climate change in North Kona, Hawaiʻi

1Department of Botany, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, 2University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, 3Water Resources Research Center, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, 4The Natural Capital Project, Woods Institute for the Environment and Department of Biology, Stanford University, 5Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, 6USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, NYC Urban Field Station, 7Kamehameha Schools, 8Department of Geography, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa


As ecosystem service assessments increasingly contribute to decisions about managing Earth’s lands and waters, there is a growing need to understand the diverse ways that people use and value landscapes. However, these assessments rarely incorporate the value of landscapes to communities with strong cultural and generational ties to place, precluding inclusion of these values—alongside others—into planning processes. We developed a process to evaluate trade-offs and synergies in ecosystem services across land-use scenarios and under climate change in North Kona, Hawaiʻi, a tropical dry ecosystem where water, fire, biodiversity, and cultural values are all critical considerations for land management decisions. Specifically, we combined participatory deliberative methods, ecosystem service models, vegetation surveys, and document analysis to evaluate how cultural services, regulating services (groundwater recharge, landscape flammability reduction), biodiversity, and revenue: (1) vary across four land-use scenarios (pasture, coffee, agroforestry, and native forest restoration) and (2) are expected to vary with climate change (representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 mid-century scenario). The native forest restoration scenario provided high cultural, biodiversity, and ecosystem service value, whereas coffee's strongest benefit was monetary return. The agroforestry scenario offered the greatest potential in terms of maximizing multiple services. Pasture had relatively low ecological and economic value but, as with native forest and agroforestry, held high value in terms of local knowledge and cultural connection to place. Climate change amplified existing vulnerabilities for groundwater recharge and landscape flammability, but resulted in few shifts in the ranking of land-use scenarios. Our results demonstrate that cultural services need not be sacrificed at the expense of other management objectives if they are deliberately included in land-use planning from the start. Meaningfully representing what matters most to diverse groups of people, now and under a changing climate, requires greater integration of participatory methods into ecosystem service analyses.
Key words: agroforestry; ahupuaʻa; cultural services; ecosystem services; forest restoration; hydrologic services; islands; landscape flammability; land-use change; watershed management


In an era of global environmental change, one of the most pressing issues is identifying land management practices that meet societal needs now and into the future. Institutions are responding to this need through calls to incorporate ecosystem services (ES) into decision making and planning (Guerry et al. 2015). The emergence of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and a memorandum directing United States federal agencies to explicitly incorporate ES into decision making exemplify this trend (Donovan et al. 2015, Mooney 2016). Implementing these policy advances requires consideration of the costs and benefits of land management decisions in terms of the outcomes most important to diverse stakeholders. This has spurred the movement of ES science from theory to application in land-use planning and decision making (Raudsepp-Hearne et al. 2010, Ruckelshaus et al. 2015). Yet, despite rapid advancement in ES science and application, interdisciplinary assessments of the effects of land-use change on multiple benefits and stakeholder groups remain scarce (Asah et al. 2014, Kenter 2016, Pascual et al. 2017).

Ecosystem services assessments also increasingly diverge between those focusing on sociocultural values of local communities vs. those focusing on assessing and valuing provisioning and regulating services (Kenter 2016). Cultural ecosystem services (CES) or the “non-material benefits people obtain from ecosystems” (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) 2005: 40), represent one pathway to include local perceptions of landscape values in ES assessments. The importance of CES is increasingly recognized (Daniel et al. 2012, Gould et al. 2014), but incorporating CES alongside other values into decision making remains highly limited (Raudsepp-Hearne et al. 2010, Chan et al. 2012). Most CES assessments focus on recreation and scenic beauty (Chan et al. 2012) and do not adequately capture the value of landscapes to the many communities worldwide with strong cultural, generational, and genealogical ties to land (Liu and Opdam 2014). This includes traditionally managed production landscapes (based on place-specific agroecological practices and knowledge transmitted and adapted through generations), which are widespread globally, including over 10% (96 million ha) of cultivated land in the developing world (Altieri 2004) and an estimated 11% (377 million ha) of global forests (White and Martin 2002). In these systems, cultural background, worldview, and attachment to place play particularly important roles in the way CES are realized and perceived (Winthrop 2014, Pascua et al. 2017). There is a critical gap in studies that include CES alongside other ES in these contexts where cultural values are often most appropriately assessed through participatory, deliberative methods (Kenter et al. 2011, Raymond et al. 2014).

Understanding of how ES will be influenced by climate change also remains limited in broader ES assessments (Biggs et al. 2012, Runting et al. 2016), despite being critical to managing these services over time (Mooney et al. 2009). Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns have consequences for multiple services, and varying trade-offs across different land uses are also anticipated (Kirchner et al. 2015, Runting et al. 2016). Cultural ecosystem services may be affected by climate change, but some CES—such as attachment to place, maintenance of social networks, reciprocity, and local ecological knowledge—also contribute to community resilience to climate change and other disturbances (Folke 2006, Vaughan and Vitousek 2013, McMillen et al. 2014). This emphasizes the importance of integrating CES alongside other ES into land-use planning under climate change.

In response to these gaps, we collaborated with the Kamehameha Schools (KS; an indigenous Hawaiian educational trust and the State of Hawaiʻi’s largest private landowner) and an indigenous Hawaiian (Kānaka Maoli) and place-based (kamaʻāina) community to develop a process to assess the multiple environmental, economic, and cultural outcomes of land use and climate change and apply it in an existing decision context in North Kona, Hawaiʻi. Since the late 18th century, much of North Kona’s dry forest has been converted to pasture for cattle, a land use with strong cultural value but declining monetary returns (Melrose et al. 2016). Over 300,000 ha of pasturelands remain in Hawaiʻi, but increasing concerns over water scarcity, fire risk, and low native biodiversity raise the issue of alternative land-use options (Melrose et al. 2016). Such decisions are occurring together with a resurgence in the application of indigenous principles to land and marine resource management for diverse ecological, socioeconomic, and cultural values (e.g., Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) 2012, Kamehameha Schools 2016).

We sought to inform an upcoming decision around the use of pasturelands in North Kona, as well as provide a framework for KS and other landowners with similar interests in balancing revenues with broader cultural and environmental values. This collaboration defined four broad future land-use scenarios for pasturelands: (i) pasture (i.e., current use); (ii) coffee, a lucrative but water-intensive land use common in the vicinity; (iii) native forest restoration; and (iv) agroforestry, a historically important land use across the Pacific that integrates understory crops with high-value (cultural and economic) native and nonnative tree crops (Bell and Taylor 2015). We then assessed and compared a range of outcomes across these scenarios that were explicitly tied to concerns identified by the landowner and the local community. These outcomes included net revenue streams for the land manager, indigenous cultural and community values, and ES that are relevant statewide: groundwater recharge, fire risk reduction, and native biodiversity.

Using a range of interdisciplinary methods, we address the following questions: (i) What are the cultural, environmental, and revenue outcomes associated with each land-use scenario? (ii) What are the synergies and trade-offs across land-use scenarios? and (iii) How does incorporating changing climate conditions affect these synergies and trade-offs?


Study site: social–ecological setting

Kaʻūpūlehu is an ahupuaʻa (a traditional sociopolitical land boundary) situated on the leeward coast of Hawaiʻi Island, extending from sea level to 2500 m and covering 104 km² (Fig. 1). Mean annual rainfall (MAR) is 666 mm/year and projected to decrease by 18–25% by midcentury (Giambelluca et al. 2013, Elison Timm et al. 2014). Sparsely vegetated lava fields cover about one-third of the low elevation area, and a large portion of the area used for agriculture prior to European contact is now Hualālai Cattle Ranch. Currently, most of Kaʻūpūlehu is rural and sparsely populated (12 dwellings at midelevation), but there is a luxury residential development (part-time, transient population of 55) and hotel (243 rooms) at the shoreline. Few lineal descendants and longtime residents of Kaʻūpūlehu are able to reside within the ahupuaʻa, but many live nearby, maintaining strong connections to their ancestral lands (McMillen et al. 2016).

The entire ahupuaʻa is owned by KS. As a trust established for the benefit of Kānaka Maoli, KS seeks to manage 365,000 acres of land statewide to balance multiple economic, educational, cultural, and environmental goals (Goldstein et al. 2012, Kamehameha Schools 2016). Alongside other landowners across the State, KS is considering future options for pasturelands and seeks to develop a process to incorporate diverse values into decision making across their landholdings. Thus, Kaʻūpūlehu provided an opportunity to directly support a timely decision context while also developing an approach widely applicable for landowners interested in incorporating multiple values into land-use decisions (County of Hawaiʻi 2010, Bremer et al. 2015).

Cultural and place-based values are of high priority for KS in Kaʻūpūlehu, and Kānaka Maoli and kama'āina of Kaʻūpūlehu (henceforth local community) are involved in resource management advisory councils, educational programs, and cultural restoration projects in the ahupuaʻa. Environmental outcomes, including groundwater recharge (the main water source statewide), are also highly valued by KS and the broader public. Wildfires are a primary concern and have increased dramatically in Hawaiʻi in recent decades with the expansion of nonnative grasslands, especially in drier areas including North Kona (Trauernicht et al. 2015). Finally, the ahupuaʻa contains some of State’s last remaining tracts of tropical dry forest, considered to be the most endangered ecosystem in Hawaiʻi (Bruegmann 1996, Cordell et al. 2008) due to habitat conversion, fire, and invasive species (Blackmore and Vitousek 2000). Climate change-related reductions in precipitation and increased temperatures are projected to further reduce groundwater recharge, increase wildfire risk, and threaten native biodiversity (Elison Timm et al. 2014, Vorsino et al. 2014, Elison Timm 2017).

Land management and climate change scenarios

Our study area focused on the midelevation portion of Kaʻūpūlehu classified as perennial grassland in the widely utilized LANDFIRE land cover data set (LANDFIRE 2012; 13.9 km²; Fig. 1). We defined future land-use scenarios for this area through discussions with KS and the local community as well as through broader consideration of pasturelands in North Kona. This included several in-person meetings with the Natural and Cultural Resources team of KS (four to five KS staff and four to five researchers) and two community workshops (including the CES workshop described below and one presenting preliminary results). This iterative process allowed for refinement of scenarios to better match KS and community goals. The final land-use scenarios considered were: (1) pasture (current use); (2) native forest restoration in all current pasture areas (mesic or dry forest; Append. 1); (3) agroforestry (mesic or dry based on MAR; Append. 1); and (4) coffee, in areas with suitable temperature ranges (Fig. 1; Append. 1). Within the second scenario, forest restoration type, which depended on MAR, shifted under climate change (Append. 1). Coffee was limited to areas with mean annual temperatures >15°C and <22.8°C (Bittenbender and Smith 2008), constraining coffee to 13.6 km² under the current climate and to 8.9 km² under climate change (Fig. 1; Append. 1).

We compared outcomes (see below) of these land-use scenarios under current and projected climate conditions. Future climate under the representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 midcentury (2065) scenario entails an 8.5 W/m² increase in radiative forcing from preindustrial levels and a 2°C rise in average global temperatures by 2046–2065. Initially considered extreme, we are already expected to overshoot the RCP 8.5 scenario (Sanford et al. 2014). Accordingly, the current climate provides a low-range potential future climate, and RCP 8.5 midcentury a useful mid to upper range.

Our analysis was over 50 years, in line with the midcentury climate projection. We selected environmental, cultural, and economic values that will likely be important to KS, the local community, and broader society over this time period.

Cultural, environmental, and economic outcomes

Cultural ecosystem services

Given KS’s mission to benefit Kānaka Maoli communities, we focused our assessment of CES on the local Kānaka Maoli community with cultural and generational ties to Kaʻūpūlehu, as well as other kamaʻāina residents and stewards of Kaʻūpūlehu. Our epistemological approach emphasizes an indigenous Hawaiian worldview. All research was conducted with institutional review board (IRB) approval from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa following standard protocols for prior informed consent. Equally importantly, interactions followed culturally appropriate protocols, particularly when discussing elder knowledge and ancestral landscapes (See Pascua et al. 2017; Append. 1). The findings and analyses reported here include and build upon a 2-year collaborative research project on local knowledge and adaptation to change (Kaʻūpūlehu Community et al. 2014, McMillen et al. 2016; McMillen, “Local knowledge and adaptation to environmental and climate change in Kaʻūpūlehu,” unpublished manuscript).

We evaluated CES important for the local community and their associations with different land-use scenarios through a community workshop and in-depth interviews. We used purposive sampling for our community workshop (Tongco 2007), where 13 local community members were selected for their in-depth and long-term relationships to Kaʻūpūlehu and the surrounding North Kona region. Given that KS specifically aims to perpetuate indigenous cultural values, we included those who are highly knowledgeable about place-based practices and are actively involved in efforts to perpetuate traditional practices and sustainable resource management (Pascua et al. 2017). Although the number of workshop participants was small, Kaʻūpūlehu is sparsely populated (permanent resident population of ca. 30), and the workshop included representation from most families of lineal descendants currently living in the region.

The community workshop used facilitation tools to enhance collaboration (Ching 2014). We employed participatory and deliberative methods that allow for social interaction and discussion, which are considered effective in bringing attention to shared values and concepts (Kenter 2016). This included an activity where participants were asked to write responses on blank index cards to the question: “What are the ways you interact with/are sustained by ʻāina (land, literally “that which feeds”)?” Workshop participants then shared the answers, and as a group, categorized these answers in a deliberative process. In another activity, subgroups discussed specific land-use scenarios, followed by a larger group discussion, with the guiding questions: “What are the ways you interact with this particular type of ʻāina? What specific things maintain your relationship to this type of ʻāina?” Participants also discussed what would be missing if the given land-use scenario was no longer present (see Pascua et al. 2017 for full methods).

For a deeper understanding of themes that emerged from the workshop, open-ended, indepth interviews were carried out with 10 of the workshop participants at a subsequent community gathering (three of the original workshop participants were unavailable). Interview questions followed up on workshop themes and also asked specifically about perceptions of changes in CES under climate change. Data collected in the community workshops and follow-up interviews were compiled and then analyzed through inductive or open coding, a qualitative method that combs responses for emergent services and themes (Maxwell 2005). Cultural ecosystem services associated with each land use were organized into four overarching categories: (1) ʻIke (knowledge); (2) Mana (spirituality); (3) Pilina Kānaka (social interactions); and (4) Ola Mau (physical and mental well-being) following a Hawaiʻi-based CES framework developed in a participatory process with indigenous scholars and two local communities in Hawaiʻi (see Pascua et al. 2017; Table 1).

The assessment of CES focused on the land uses in Kaʻūpulehu as well as the broader North Kona region. This represents a different spatial scale than the environmental and economic analyses (which focused specifically on Kaʻūpūlehu only). Although ideally the spatial scale of all analyses would exactly match, for a variety of reasons this was not possible in this study. Despite strong ancestral and cultural ties to Kaʻūpūlehu among the local community, they do not have direct decision-making power or open access to these lands. Thus, focusing more broadly on the land-use type, including the lands they currently manage within the broader area, resonated more with workshop participants. Challenges in spatially allocating sociocultural values, particularly in indigenous communities, have been noted elsewhere (Kenter et al. 2015).

Groundwater recharge

As the Kona region has virtually no surface flow (Brauman et al. 2014), we estimated the ecosystem service of groundwater recharge following Wada et al. (2017) for Kaʻūpūlehu under the different land-use scenarios for the current spatial extent (13.9 km²) of pasturelands using a water balance approach where:

Recharge = Rainfall + fog interception - actual evapotranspiration (AET)

We used MAR from the Hawaiʻi rainfall atlas (Giambelluca et al. 2013) for the current climate and statistically downscaled rainfall data for RCP 8.5 midcentury for the future climate (Elison Timm et al. 2014). We estimated fog interception using the relationship described in Engott (2011), which estimates fog as a function of elevation, vegetation, and rainfall (Append. 1). To calculate annual AET across the region, we created linear regressions by land cover, with AET as a function of annual vegetation and climate variables (air temperature, net radiation, relative humidity, wind speed, available soil moisture, leaf area index, canopy cover, and vegetation height) (Giambelluca et al. 2014) and adjusted parameters and equations with climate and land-use change (Wada et al. 2017; Append. 1). Within Kaʻūpūlehu, the difference between AET produced by Giambelluca et al. (2014) and the statistical approach described above was <5%.

Landscape flammability

To assess how land use influences fire occurrence in Kaʻūpūlehu pasturelands today, we used a 20-year (1992–2011) data set of the spatial extent of 91 fires, collected by the Hawaiʻi Wildfire Management Organization (Append. 1). Random points were sampled annually across the landscape (n = 150,000, mean n = 7500 or 0.23% of the landscape per year) and classified as burnt or unburnt depending on whether they occurred within the perimeter of a fire during the sample year. The burnt/unburnt classification was used as a binomial response to fit a generalized additive model (GAM) of the probability of fire occurrence per pixel per year (e.g., Preisler et al. 2004, Trauernicht et al. 2012) as a function of landscape-scale drivers of fire (Pausas and Keeley 2009). Predictors included annual rainfall, mean annual temperature, aspect, vegetation type, wildfire ignition density, and annual rainfall anomaly (the difference between annual and mean annual rainfall; Append. 1).

We characterized changes in landscape flammability by comparing distributions of the annual, per pixel probability of fire occurrence across the management area, as predicted by the model above, under the different land-use scenarios for current and future climates. For the given land-use scenarios, grassland flammability predictions were used to characterize pasture, forest flammability to characterize native forest restoration and agroforestry, and shrubland flammability to characterize coffee. There are anecdotal accounts of fires occurring in coffee plantations in Hawaiʻi; however, the limited distribution of the crop in the study region precluded integrating a coffee land-cover type as a predictor.

Biodiversity conservation value

To assess biodiversity conservation value, we measured native and nonnative plant species richness and cover in pasture, native forest, and coffee in Kaʻūpūlehu and the surrounding area (Append. 1). Given that there is currently no traditional agroforestry practiced in or near Kaʻūpūlehu, estimates of species richness and cover were developed for a potential agroforestry scenario based on expert knowledge of agroforestry systems practiced historically in Kaʻūpūlehu and those currently practiced in similar environments elsewhere in the Pacific Islands. This included a mix of native species, traditional (Polynesian introduced) crops, and other species with high economic and cultural value (Append. 1). We did not assess the effect of projected climate change on biodiversity conservation value because of the lack of information available on how vegetation in each land use will respond to climate change.

Management costs and returns to land manager

To consider the potential revenue implications of various land uses, we used publicly available data on growing parameters, costs, and revenues for each of the land-use scenarios. Hawaiʻi-specific data were used wherever possible. When not available, we used national statistics, often from the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Agricultural Statistics Service (Append. 1). The net present value (NPV) of management costs and economic returns to the landowner/manager for each scenario was calculated over 50 years, assuming a discount rate of 5%. Costs included the labor and materials required to convert the existing landscape (pasture) to each land-use scenario, as well as the labor, inputs, and materials needed to maintain production or conservation (e.g., fencing, export costs, wages). All values are reported in 2015 U.S. dollars. Inflation adjustments are made using the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator. Detailed explanation and assumptions behind the calculation of costs and revenue for each scenario are outlined in Append. 1.


Cultural ecosystem services

“When we describe ourselves as the child of the land, we have every obligation to the land that we do to our Tūtū [grandparent]…”

Local community members who participated in our study emphasized the interconnections among the four categories of CES as well as among provisioning, regulating, and cultural services (Table 1). They described a suite of values for pasture, agroforestry, and the forest restoration sceanarios, which were categorized to the extent possible as: Mana (spiritual values); ʻIke (knowledge); Ola Mau (physical and mental health); and Pilina Kānaka (social connections) (Pascua et al. 2017; Table 1). References to the importance of the other benefits assessed in this study (e.g., fire control, water availability, native species, and economics in terms of livelihoods) also emerged in discussions of cultural values (Table 1). Coffee is not discussed here; although cultivated in Kaʻūpūlehu, it was deemed by workshop participants as neither culturally nor ecologically suitable given its recent arrival, small scale, and high irrigation requirements.

Participants discussed cultural “services” in the context of reciprocal relationships between humans and the ʻāina, or land, rather than a unidirectional flow of benefits toward people. This reflects family traditions and current lifestyles, which fluidly move from the mountains to the sea across shoreline, pasture, forest, and home gardens. They spoke of shaping and being shaped by healthy “ancestral landscapes” and “storied landscapes” as the basis for sustenance of body, mind, spirit, and cultural identity. Therefore, maintaining a connection to the land is critical, and participants framed the value of human–environment relationships through concepts of environmental kinship (land as family—ʻāina as ʻohana), responsibility (kuleana) and stewardship (mālama ʻāina). For example, they described themselves as children of the land (kamaʻāina or keiki o ka ʻāina), underscoring the kinship they feel to place and how their identities are tied to the land and to interactions with it.

Features of the landscape are named, cared for, and revered as family members. The land encodes history, teachings, and provides inspiration as well as physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. The land flourishes when people live upon and interact with it. Participants explained that lessons from these storied places (wahi pana) and their associated oral histories (moʻolelo) impart the importance of sharing with others, respect, knowing one’s place in the universe, and how to use resources wisely. In an interview from earlier phases of the research, one woman, who was also a workshop participant, talked about her relationship with the storied landscape:

“Just for me to be in that petroglyph field to go and sit amongst them and learn and ask questions and connect with kūpuna (elders) in that way.”

In terms of perceptions of climate change effects on CES, decreases in rainfall were associated with reducing the already limited capacity to graze and water cattle. Less rain, and potentially more fire, could also decrease the health and extent of native forest, which participants thought would diminish its educational, social, and cultural value. Likewise, less rain and more fire was thought to diminish potential agricultural returns. Participants also pointed to increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme events (e.g., drought, hurricanes, tidal waves) as critical environmental stressors requiring continuous community-based adaptation. This relies on continued access to and engagement with ʻāina.

Groundwater recharge

The pasture scenario provided the greatest benefits in terms of groundwater recharge under current climate conditions (3521 millions of liters per year (MLPY)), followed by native forest restoration (3351 MLPY), agroforestry (2850 MLPY), and coffee (-2850 MLPY). The negative water balance of coffee was due to irrigation needs surpassing precipitation. Among these scenarios, pasture yielded significantly more recharge than agroforestry (24%), and coffee resulted in significantly less recharge than all other scenarios (179% less water than pasture; Fig. 2; Append. 1).

Under climate change, recharge decreased significantly (12–67%) across all land-use scenarios (Fig. 2). This decrease was mainly driven by reductions in rainfall (Append. 1). Native forest provided significantly more recharge than both pasture (42% more water) and agroforestry (58% more water), and coffee continued to provide substantially less recharge than the other land uses under a future climate despite a 35% reduction in suitable cultivation area (>350% less water than pasture; Fig. 2; Append. 1).

Landscape flammability

Under the current climate, the annual area burned varies highly year to year across the study region (0–>1100 km²/year). Of the dominant land-cover classes, grassland, shrubland, and forest accounted for 51%, 21%, and 18%, respectively, of the area burned across the landscape. For the fire occurrence models, the global GAM was the best supported (Akaike weight > 0.99; explained deviance = 25.9%), which included all the explanatory variables listed above. The relatively low explained deviance was expected, given the low temporal resolution of our predictors and high variability across the multiple drivers that influence wildfire occurrence, especially the predominance of human-caused ignitions in Hawaiʻi (Trauernicht et al. 2015).

Landscape flammability was largely determined by the interaction between rainfall and land cover. Flammability was lowest for native forest and agroforest restoration, followed by coffee and pasture under current climatic conditions (Fig. 3). These patterns were driven by the occurrence of a peak in flammability along the rainfall gradient that differed among vegetation types (Append. 1). In other words, flammability was reduced at the wettest and driest sites, which constrain fuel ignitability and availability, respectively (Murphy et al. 2011), but these constraints varied among vegetation types (Fig. 3). Based on observed landscape-scale fire occurrence, fire probability for grasslands was highest (ca. 0.04) and peaked at drier conditions (450 mm MAR) when compared with shrublands (ca. 0.02 at 650 mm MAR) and forest (ca. 0.015 at 650 mm MAR).

Climate change increased flammability across the entire watershed under all scenarios. Within the proposed restoration area (Fig. 3), land-use scenarios differed in terms of future fire occurrence risk. Climate change reduced the variability of per pixel fire probability across all scenarios, and reduced the maximum fire probability for pasture and forest. Median per pixel fire probability increased for both pasture and coffee scenarios, with a dramatic upward shift in flammability across the restoration area for coffee under climate change. In contrast, native forest (and agroforest) restoration exhibited negligible change in the median and a reduction in the maximum and upper quartile values for per pixel fire probability under the projected changes in mean annual rainfall and temperature.

Biodiversity conservation value

The native forest restoration scenario had the highest richness of native species, highest native species cover, and lowest invasive species cover (Fig. 4; Append. 1). Compared with native forest, the agroforestry scenario was anticipated to include approximately 60% of native tree and shrub species richness and less than half as many native herbaceous species. Native forest and agroforestry had similar proportions of endemic tree and shrub species (ca. 80% of trees and shrub species were endemic), but agroforestry had a lower proportion of endemic herbaceous species. As the agroforestry scenario involved mostly nonnative understory crops, it also had much lower native understory cover than the forest. Coffee and pasture both had no native species, but pasture had the most nonnative species in both the overstory and understory. Pasture also had very high cover of invasive species (mostly invasive grasses).

Management costs and returns to landowner

Agroforestry provided the greatest monetary returns to the landowner (NPV of $646.1 million over 50 years; Fig. 5c), with coffee yielding about a third of the net revenue as agroforestry ($226.9 million; Fig. 5e), and pasture providing much lower returns ($382,804; Fig. 5a). Ninety-two percent of anticipated agroforestry revenue came from inclusion of figs (Ficus carica) as a crop; without figs, agroforestry would still yield more than pasture, but substantially less than coffee (Fig. 5d). Native forest restoration had a negative NPV (-$5.90 million; Fig. 5b), which reflects restoration costs only because we did not quantify the cultural and ecological benefits provided by native forest restoration in monetary terms. Due to reduced suitable area, NPV for coffee dropped to $148.5 million (Fig. 5e) under the future climate. This constituted a 35% reduction from the current climate scenario, but coffee remained the second most profitable land use. Other land-use extents were not affected by climate change as forest, agroforestry, and pasture were all suitable across both current and future temperature and precipitation ranges.


In the context of our study area, the landowner (KS) seeks to make decisions that incorporate cultural, economic, community, educational, and environmental values, making this an ideal and practical case study to develop a method to consider multiple values in decision making. These results provide insight and a framework for private land managers in Hawaiʻi and beyond whose decisions have broad societal outcomes that increasingly need to be considered alongside private benefits (Reddy et al. 2015). Our results highlight the importance of integrating diverse values because conclusions about preferred land uses can change depending on the values considered. This includes cultural values, which, if incorporated into land-use planning from the beginning, need not be sacrificed at the expense of other objectives. Our results also demonstrate that, at least for this study area, climate change amplifies existing concerns over groundwater recharge and landscape flammability, but only results in small shifts in rankings of land-use scenarios. Finally, many of the CES brought forth in our discussions are also indicators of community resilience (e.g., cultural connection to place, social connections, local ecological knowledge), which will be fundamental in adapting to these changes (McMillen et al. 2016).

Framing cultural services as shared relational values deepens understanding of the sociocultural benefits associated with different land-use options

Local community perspectives on CES clearly demonstrate that land-use options need to be assessed not only in terms of the benefits flowing from land to people, but also in terms of reciprocal relationships to place (Chan et al. 2016). Incorporating CES through participatory methods provided insight that deepened and altered the story told by ecological and economic indicators alone. The deliberative process of identifying and documenting shared values was meaningful in and of itself, and provides a voice for place-based and indigenous perspectives in decision making (Pascua et al. 2017). This supports the idea that “deliberation is crucial for value formation, it is not just a means but an end in itself, as a catalyst for new democratic spaces” (Kenter 2016: 180).

We found strong cultural value in all four categories associated with pasture, agroforestry, and native forest restoration (Table 1). For example, native forest included high spiritual value (Mana) and provided opportunities for learning through caring for native species (ʻIke - knowledge). However, the value of native forest restoration is not fully realized due to limited access to current North Kona native forest areas, which are largely within private land and a State reserve. Agroforestry was particularly valued for its potential contribution to health (Ola Mau) through promoting diverse diets and local food security, as well as reciprocity and social relationships through sharing of food and perpetuating a sense of place (Pilina Kanaka - social interactions).

For many families in the area, the ability to perpetuate social relationships and cultural connections to ancestral and storied landscapes through stewardship is of utmost importance to their identity and way of life. As a key example, pasture and ranching provide important opportunities to maintain and pass down place-based knowledge and cultural practices (ʻIke - knowledge) that facilitate a sense of place and strong connections among families, communities, and ancestors (Pilina Kanaka - social interactions and Mana - spirituality). Ranching also provides physical and mental health benefits (Ola Mau) from the sense of well-being, place, and identity brought by perpetuating long-term practices. Pasture also represents an alternative to encroaching real estate development, which the local community views as the greatest threat to their values and way of life. However, through just an ecological and economic lens, pasture provides relatively low value (Fig. 6). Ignoring critically important cultural values may have consequences for the well-being of the local community, and may reduce public support for land-use policy (Asah et al. 2014).

Synergies and trade-offs among multiple benefits

Land-use options can be ranked comparatively based on environmental and revenue outcomes, illuminating the compatabilities and trade-offs associated with each decision now and under climate change (Fig. 6). If managing only for environmental values, for example, native forest restoration performs best across the benefits considered, whereas coffee meets the least of these criteria (Fig. 6). If emphasis is instead placed on monetary returns to the private landowner, the top scenarios are agroforestry and coffee, with native forest restoration ranking last (Fig. 6). These results do not provide clear win–win answers for a landowner like KS, but, depending on how different objectives are weighted, can be used to articulate the synergies and trade-offs among multiple desired outcomes. However, in this context, CES represent deep place-based and indigenous values that should be incorporated as integral components of the planning process from the outset, rather than as outcomes that might be traded off (Table 1; Pascua et al. 2017).

Pasture, agroforestry, and native forest restoration all resulted in similar benefits for groundwater recharge, whereas coffee resulted in significantly less, due to high irrigation needs (Append. 1). In contrast to global studies on reforestation and afforestation that show decreases in water availability with conversion to forest (Bosch and Hewlett 1982, Farley et al. 2005), we found that dry forest restoration would have very little effect on groundwater recharge compared with pasture. Our results are similar to those found in the Kona region (Brauman et al. 2012), suggesting that reforestation can be compatible with hydrological service goals in areas where forest evapotranspiration rates are low, and where fog interception increases precipitation under forest cover.

Native forest restoration and agroforestry provided the lowest landscape flammability under the current climate, whereas pasture posed the greatest risk, followed closely by coffee. However, managing fire in these systems also requires mitigating the risk of fire incursion from the broader landscape, so mitigation may be more intensive for native forest restoration and agroforestry (e.g., requiring fuel breaks) than pasture, where targeted grazing can be used to reduce fire risk (Nader et al. 2007). Local ranching families of Kaʻūpūlehu, for example, view grazing as an important fire control strategy. From their perspective, native forest (or agroforestry) is at high fire risk if fencing prevents cattle from reducing fuel loads by grazing.

Our results suggest that investing in agroforestry restoration can have important ecological and economic benefits (Fig. 6), and—if designed with cultural values in mind—can also support CES. Agroforestry systems were once widespread across the Hawaiian Islands, and there is an increasing interest in restoring them to improve Hawaii’s food security and revitalize a culturally important land use (Kurashima et al. 2017). Although our agroforestry system was hypothetical, it has potential to conserve at least half of the native and/or endemic species found in native forest, which is consistent with studies of Pacific Island agroforests elsewhere (Raynor 1993, Thaman 2014). Given the economic returns to the landowner, agroforestry can also represent a strategy to finance native forest restoration. Fig, a nonnative species, was included in the agroforestry scenario at the suggestion of the local community to make a traditional land use more economically viable in a contemporary context. Incorporating high-value cash crops into traditional agroforestry systems is a common strategy practiced worldwide to increase the economic returns of systems that provide food security, cultural resources, and ecological services. Although fig provides the highest expected revenue, including other crops (e.g., sweet potato) ensures positive economic returns, even if the local demand for figs falls short of planned production.

Given the high cultural value placed on native forest restoration, pasture, and agroforestry, a mix of these land uses will likely produce the most socially acceptable land-use decision. A key limitation of the current study lies in its focus on single-use scenarios. It was beyond the scope of this study to explore the broad range of scenarios that could emerge through an iterative process. However, our approach provides KS with a process to evaluate multiple outcomes, and our results detail the types of services that would emerge from a mixture of land uses. A useful next step in KS’s planning process would be to explore scenarios, jointly determined by KS and community values that combine different land uses.

Integrating climate change into decisions

A recent review highlighted the paucity of studies that integrate both land use and climate change into assessments of ES provision for improved decision making (Runting et al. 2016). Our results suggest that climate change primarily acts as an amplifier of existing natural resource concerns with negative outcomes for groundwater and fire risk in our study area. In the case of coffee, for example, the combined impact of climate change and a crop that is more water intensive and susceptible to fire, made coffee cultivation an increasingly less feasible land-use option in dry areas where substantial irrigation is needed and where fire risk is increasing.

Climate change also resulted in several shifts in land-use priorities (Fig. 6). First, in contrast to current climate conditions, native forest restoration provided more groundwater recharge under climate change than pasture (Fig. 2). This is largely due to drier conditions requiring a greater proportion of the management area be restored to dry forest (which has lower evapotranspiration rates than mesic forest) (Giambelluca et al. 2014; Append. 1). Second, in the case of landscape flammability, coffee posed a higher risk than pasture under climate change, but not under the current climate. This is due to the differing effects of rainfall on the peak flammability of shrublands (coffee) and grasslands (pasture) in the restoration area under climate change (Append. 1).

We lacked the information needed to project how species richness and cover of Hawaiian plant communities will respond to climate change. Existing research has shown that climate change is expected to lead to declines in those species currently at highest risk of extinction (Fortini et al. 2013), including the many currently threatened and endangered endemic species found in the region (Vorsino et al. 2014). The relative ranking of scenarios for biodiversity conservation is therefore unlikely to change, but the level of biodiversity conserved is likely to be reduced under climate change. Thus, Fig. 6 reflects no change in the ranking of land-use scenarios for the biodiversity outcome, but we put this forward as an important area for future research.

From the perspective of the local community, climate change would not change the fundamental CES associated with pasture, agroforestry, and native forest. There was, however, concern about possible reductions in the extent of suitable areas for these practices. Importantly, participants further identified extreme or pulse events (e.g., hurricanes), and the timing of natural cycles (e.g., regional drought and flooding) as important influences on CES and adaptation strategies. Climate change will likely increase the frequency and intensity of events and alter the timing of rainfall and other cycles (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2014), but we were not able to adequately capture these outcomes in our current ES models. Increasing the temporal resolution of both ES models and climate projections to capture the effects of pulse or extreme events as well as participatory research on how these events influence human–environment relationships represent fruitful areas for future research.

Interestingly, human–environment relationships were discussed by participants not only in terms of current well-being, but in terms of resilience and capacity to adapt to climate and other environmental stressors. Indeed, many of the CES identified by community participants are also considered important components of social resilience, including reflective and shared learning, cultural identity, traditional ecological knowledge, social organization, stewardship, reciprocity, and physical and mental well-being (Berkes and Ross 2013, Cabel and Oelofse 2012, McMillen et al. 2016; Table 1). Access to and reciprocal relationships with 'āina are the foundation for adaptive capacity, because it is through cooperative action to steward natural–cultural resources that traditional and place-based knowledge continues to be generated and transmitted and to evolve (McMillen et al. 2016). Thus, the social resilience embedded in the CES associated with maintaining relationships with multiple land uses also underpins the community’s ability to adapt and maintain their relationships to place in the face of change. Decision making needs to include a foundational awareness of and support for communities to continue to learn and adapt while applying their place-based knowledge, beliefs, and practices (McMillen et al. 2016).

In Kaʻūpūlehu, and across communities with strong cultural, multigenerational, and/or genealogical land ties, considering cultural and community values, including connection to place, is critical to supporting land-use decisions that provide benefits now and in an uncertain future (Maher and Baum 2013). In addition to the environmental benefits assessed, the cultural values associated with native forest, agroforest, and pasture reflect what often matter most to people in this and other communities with strong cultural connections to their land. Collectively, this research demonstrates the necessity of integrating locally relevant evaluations of CES alongside other environmental and economic benefits into ES assessments and land-use planning in order to improve inclusive and equitable decision-making capacity under changing climate conditions.


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We are deeply grateful to kamaʻāina of Kaʻūpūlehu for their time, insight, and support of this project. We also thank the Kamehameha Schools, particularly the Natural and Cultural Resources Team, for their support and input into project design. P. Hamel and B. Bryant provided support for the uncertainty analyses; P. Hoppe assisted with botanical analyses; M. Lucas carried out geospatial data processing of fire data; and the Hawaiʻi Wildfire Management Organization provided fire history data. We thank H. Mooney, G. Daily, A. Guswa, the UH Mānoa NSF Coastal SEES team, and the Natural Capital Project Freshwater and Terrestrial Team for their helpful comments throughout the project. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Coastal SEES Program (#SES-1325874) and the Pacific Island Climate Change Cooperative.


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Address of Correspondent:
Leah L. Bremer
University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization and Water Resources Research Center, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, 2424 Maile Way, Saunders Hall 540, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi 96822, USA
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