Fungal disease kills hundreds of thousands of Ohia trees in Hawaii

Fungal disease kills hundreds of thousands of Ohia trees in Hawaii

A fungal disease called Rapid Ohia Death (ROD) have killed hundreds of thousands of Hawaii’s iconic and native Ohia trees, which flora experts say are vital to the water supplies.

The Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources (DLNR) has warned that ROD, which is caused by a fungus called Ceratocystis fimbriata, has the potential of spreading across the state.

The fungal disease is new to Hawaii vegetation, and currently it impacts only Big Island forests. But, the thought of its potential of spreading across Hawaii has already created a wave of fear among experts.

A number of Hawaii agencies have teamed up with federal agencies to develop up-to-date information about ROD and find ways to minimize further spread of the disease. DLNR Chairperson Suzanne Case and Dept. of Agriculture Head Scott Enright are two of the top state officials engaged in the fight against the disease.

Officials said in a statement, “They (Ohia trees) are so important for protecting our forest watersheds that it’s necessary our approach to combating this disease involves the highest levels of government and includes non-government agencies and private partners that can provide additional resources and expertise.”

The mysterious disease was first detected in 2014 in the forests of Puna. Since then, it has spread to several other areas, including the Kona and Ka’u Island. The fungal disease can lead to the death of a mature tree within two weeks, with a varying mortality risk of between 50 per cent and 90 per cent depending on the area.

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