Back to the Future in the Caves of Kauaʻi: A Scientist's Adventures in the Dark.
David A. Burney. Yale University Press, New Haven; 2011.
6 by 9 inches, xv+198 pages. Hardbound
ISBN 978-0-300-15094-0, $28;
softbound ISBN 978-0-300-17209-6, $18.
In pursuit of his interest in paleoecology, or the study of how the arrival of humans has changed ecosystems worldwide, the author began an investigation in Makauwahi Cave on the southeastern coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauaʻi. A solution cave in eolianite limestone that also spent some time as a sea cave, it now consists mainly of a large, open collapse sinkhole. Excavation and coring of the deposits on the floor of the sink have disclosed a lot of information about the changes in the island's flora and fauna since the arrival of Polynesians about a thousand years ago and then Europeans in 1788. Before it's discovery by man, the only mammal on the island was a bat. A large fraction of the plants and animals on the Hawaiian islands were unable to cope with the the Polynesian's rats, dogs, and pigs and the European's goats, not to mention many invasive plants introduced accidentally or on purpose. Many have gone extinct, and hundreds of officially endangered species hang on only in remote and inaccessible areas.
More recently, the author and his wife have spearheaded restoration of the ancient ecology in the sinkhole and some of the surrounding area. The Makauwahi Cave Reserve is now a popular attraction due to the thriving native plants. The book is in a popular style, but has many references to the scientific literature. Very readable, if not exactly cavey in the usual sense.
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