Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death Detection Prompts Maui Meetings

August 3, 2019, 6:59 AM HST · Updated August 3, 6:59 AM
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The state Department of Land and Natural Resources will host three community meetings this month to discuss Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death after a fungus that causes the disease was detected for the first time on Maui in July.

The finding was made in a single tree in the East Maui region of Hāna.  The tree, which was in an ornamental setting, was destroyed; however, surveys for the disease are ongoing.

‘Ōhi’a are the backbone of our native rainforest; they feed the honeycreepers, they protect the watershed. Photo credit: DLNR.

Officials with the DLNR say, “This first occurrence of this disease on Maui will likely not be the last.”

Interested people are invited to attend community information meetings to learn more about Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, what is being done, and how everyone can help prevent its spread. Although the disease could show up anywhere on Maui, initial meetings are planned for East Maui. The Emmy-award winning documentary, “Saving ʻŌhiʻa” will be shown and resource managers, conservation biologists and partners from multiple agencies will be on hand to answer questions.

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Schedule of Maui Meetings:

  • Hāna: Friday, August 9th at Helene Hall, 5 to 7 p.m.
  • Haʻikū Community Center: Friday, August 16th, 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Pukalani:  Friday, August 23rd at Hannibal Tavares Community Center, 6 to 8 p.m.

The importance of awareness and help from property owners is underscored by the story of the discovery on Maui. A private land-owner near Hāna contacted a Maui Invasive Species Committee employee about a sick ʻōhiʻa tree. It was sampled, then analyzed by the USDA Agricultural Research Service lab in Hilo. It confirmed the presence of Ceratocystis huliohia. Although this is the less aggressive of the two Ceratocystis species associated with ROD, it still has the ability to kill ʻōhiʻa trees.

A partnership of state, federal, university, and non-government organizations have been conducting systematic helicopter and ground surveys to monitor for the symptoms of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death since 2016. Researchers are still trying to understand the source of the two Ceratocystis pathogens and are looking at any possible patterns of dispersal.

Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death threatens Hawaii’s most important tree species. ʻŌhiʻa grows on roughly 80,000 acres on Maui; throughout the West Maui mountains and across Haleakalā. ʻŌhiʻa serves as a keystone species providing important watershed cover for recharging the island’s aquifer and as habitat for endangered plant and bird species, as well as having tremendous cultural and spiritual importance.

Residents and visitors can help protect our remaining ʻōhiʻa forests with the following actions:

  • Avoid injuring ʻōhiʻa. Open wounds on ʻōhiʻa are an entry point for disease spores. The disease can also spread from tree to tree on machetes or other tools.
  • Don’t transport ʻōhiʻa inter-island.
  • Don’t move ʻōhiʻa wood or vegetation, especially from areas known to have ROD.
  • Clean your hiking boots/gear/tools. Scrub off all dirt and spray boot soles and tools with 70% rubbing alcohol, and wash your clothes in hot water and use a dryer to ensure the disease is not spread on boots and clothing.
  • Wash your vehicle if driving near ʻōhiʻa forests. The disease can remain alive and infectious in soil, so wash all dirt off vehicles.

Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death has now been detected on Hawaiʻi Island, Maui, Kaua‘i and O‘ahu since the fungal disease was first discovered in 2014. To date, the more aggressive form of the disease has not been found on Maui or O‘ahu, and is extremely limited on Kaua‘i.

RESOURCES

To report dead or dying ʻōhiʻa on Maui please call or text the Maui Invasive Species Committee at (808) 573-6472 or e-mail [email protected]

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