Singing Tree Frogs on Lava Rock
Here on the Big Island of Hawaii, people do not refer to highways with numbers as I-29 or I-80 as they do on the mainland nor they use highway names. If one seeks direction from the locals, they advise you to take this or that road and take a turn so and so to reach a destination. Obviously one cannot get lost on an island, sooner or later one will reach the destination. Hawaii Belt road goes all around the island acquiring other names as it touches areas of interest but primarily route 11 and 19 would take around the island.
After a visit, Juggernaut drove from Kailua Kona, an area that caters for the tourists since the weather is dry with lots of sunshine and good beaches and golf courses. On the Big island, the wind blows from east to west, the gasses from volcanic activity or VOG as they call it here impacts Kona area, the southwestern part of the island. The route 190 also called Mamalahoa Highway goes through slabs of shiny grey black lava rock with sparse vegetation to reach few thousand feet above the sea level to reach a cool and green town Waimea, a town that resembles Mandeville on the mountains of Manchester parish in Jamaica. It is ironic that the area of Jamaica and Big Island is very similar around 4,000 sq. miles. As the highway turns south along the Honokaa coast, the scenery is spectacular with cliffs and gorges. The soils here seem rich with lots of vegetation. As approaching Hilo, the largest town on the Big Island and second largest after Honolulu among the Hawaiian Islands, one can see several small waterfalls and beach parks without sandy beaches but small rivers crashing into ocean waves creating a wonderful scenery. The water here is cold and at some locations one can get into shallow pools of water formed on volcanic rock outgrowths or tide pools.
The top soil near and north of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii was developed over basaltic volcanic rocks and volcanic ash is rich in nutrients. With abundant but not excessive rainfall and warm weather, the nutrient rich top soil supports a wide variety of vegetables, flower and fruit trees. As one travels south towards Pahoa and Kalpana in Puna district, the landscape turns into tropical rainforest with annual rainfall over 130 inches that is detrimental to top soil development. Under intense rain, the conditions were not favorable for weathered material from lava rock to accumulate to form top soil. In this area, besides some invasive trees like albizia that well suited for the local climate, the only useful trees appears to be were banana, papaya, avocado and guava, though the fruit production on these trees was poor due to lack of abundant nutrient supply. The deep rooted forest trees survive and grow into humongous size on lava rock; most farmers in the area are subsistence farmers selling their produce in local farmer’s market.
Supplying plant nutrients is a challenge to the fruit trees such as mango, guava, oranges, avocados etc., in rainforest area. Because of heavy rainfall and very thin top soil, added fertilizers leach very fast through lava rock. Split soil application of fertilizers or foliar applications were also ineffective due to heavy and frequent rain showers. Growing fruit trees in the rainforest area could only for marginal production. On the other hand, anthuriums and other flowers are grown profitably under artificial canopy to protect from intense rain.
Worldwide in general, the soils developed over volcanic rocks are rich in readily available nutrients and support wide varieties of crops if the rainfall is ideal. One viable option for the farmers in Puna area is to use the fast growing cane grass to raise animals such as lamb, goat and even cattle. The market for meat products from grass-fed animals is ever growing; by marketing grass-fed meat products with labels like “Hawaii grass fed lamb chops,” Hawaii grass fed goat cheese.” Hawaii grass fed beef,” local farmers can expand their businesses beyond selling their produce at local farmers markets. The meat processing industry if developed on the island would alleviate chronic unemployment among the locals.
Nevertheless, the area is still good for living with lots of liquid sunshine and fresh produce sold at farmer’s market if one can bear the nightly high pitch sounds of tree frogs. They usually rest during the day and as the evening comes they start with typical noisy choruses. The chorus is interrupted by some intervals of silence during heavy rain showers during the night. If one can adapt to the nightly singing tree frogs on lava rock and constant downpours, the southeast of the Big Island is livable.
“Say you are from Iowa,” asked a local at the hot pond outside Pahoa.
“Yes,” replied Juggernaut.
“So the Coquis bothering your sleep, yeah”
“Very much so, I can’t sleep at all during the nights when the Coquis start signing in harmony with other Coquis.”
“Well, you have to get adapt to the noisy nights.”
“How about biological control of Coqui population on the Island?”
“Well, let some garden snakes in to feed on these frogs.”
“No, no, the last time we did this to control the rats on the island, mongooses were brought in and see what happened, the rats went underground and we were stuck with over population of mongoose going after bird nests.”
“It is different with snakes, the snakes would keep the frogs and mongoose in check, sure they are threat to birds but in a balanced ecology, there is a place for every species, what we have in the Big Island is an artificial situation where invasive trees and frogs were let loose without biological control for too long and this lead to the current situation; the USDA and Parks and Recreation department with local University staff should able to implement a program that do not threaten the local ecology and yet control invasive species both plants and animals.”
“If you can live at below freezing temperature for days in stretch in winter you can live with singing frogs here, yeah,” the local looked at Juggernaut for an answer.
“Colorful birds, monkeys and non-poisonous snakes would bring a balance to the ecology on the Big Island. I love the liquid sunshine but not the nightly noise,” Juggernaut was affirmative.
Every evening starts with Coqui concert while Juggernaut looked helpless at the trees. After listening to Coquis night after night, he decoded their lyrics as follows:
We Are the Lava Rock Stars
We sing in harmony
Every tree is a free concert hall
We sing 12 hours non-stop from 6 to 6
No R&B, Rock, rap, reggae or calypso
We sing pure Coqui Puerto Rican Style
We are the rock stars
Singing from trees on Lava rock