Maui Business

BREAKING: ‘Ōhi‘a Fungus Discovered on Kaua‘i

May 11, 2018, 7:03 AM HST
* Updated May 11, 1:47 PM
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‘Ōhi’a are the backbone of our native rainforest; they feed the honeycreepers, they protect the watershed. Photo credit: DLNR.

A rapid response team is investigating the deaths of several ʻōhiʻa trees in the Moloa‘a Forest Reserve on Kaua‘i’s northeastern side.

Officials with the State Department of Land and Natural Resources say this is the less aggressive of two species of fungus known to cause Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death.

Until now, the disease was only known to be present on the Big Island of Hawai‘i.  The disease has devastated forests on the Big Island with an estimated 75,000 acres of Hawai‘i island ʻōhiʻa forest now showing symptoms of the fungal disease.

The rapid response team mobilized over the past week on Kaua‘i to determine the extend of the infection on the Garden Isle and to verify initial field tests. The team is also providing training for Kaua‘i-based crews on how to detect and collect samples to verity the presence of the disease.

ʻŌhiʻa trees cover more than a million acres statewide and the tree is widely considered the most important forest tree in Hawaiʻi in part because of their role in protecting watersheds.

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The rapid response team is comprised of members from: the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, the USDA Agricultural Research Service, UH-Hilo Dept. of Geography & Environmental Science, the University of Hawai‘i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, the USDA Forest Service Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, The Nature Conservancy, the National Tropical Botanical Gardens and the Big Island & Kaua‘i Invasive Species Committees.

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A news conference will be held this afternoon to discuss the team’s findings.

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