Clean your boots

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island file photo

    Representatives from the Rapid Ohia Death response team briefed the Kauai County Council Planning Committee Wednesday on the discovery of the fungus on Kauai and on steps to strengthen biosecurity on the island.

LIHUE — Rapid Ohia Death was on the table at the Kauai County Council committee meetings on Wednesday as part of ongoing outreach to educate people in Hawaii about the fungus targeting the native trees.

Since May, the fugus, formerly confined to Hawaii Island, has been confirmed in trees at two different locations on Kauai.

Response is being led by researchers and scientists from agencies like the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Kauai Invasive Species Committee, The Nature Conservancy, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Kauai Watershed Alliance and the University of Hawaii.

Mapping, sampling and learning about both the fungal species that cause ROD are all part of the response, but so is meeting with the public and government bodies to help spread the word.

“We’re hoping to raise awareness and that they (county councils across Hawaii) become advocates for the cause to their constituents,” said Ambyr Mokiao-Lee, Rapid Ohia Death Statewide Outreach Coordinator, Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii.

Lee flew to Kauai from Oahu Wednesday specifically to brief the council’s planning committee on the impacts of ROD on Kauai and statewide, and planning committee chair Mason Chock said a lot of good information was presented at the meeting.

While responding to ROD isn’t part of the county’s role, he said the council has the potential to help raise awareness about the fungus and councilmembers themselves can make efforts to slow its spread.

“I think for us, it’s really just creating an avenue for people to understand what it is and what it isn’t,” Chock said. “Now that we know it’s here on Kauai, what can we do? I think they’ve learned a lot about Rapid Ohia Death in a short amount of time.”

As the committee was being briefed on ROD, the outreach committee was also educating tour groups on biosecurity and how to make sure their guests aren’t transporting stowaways around Kauai.

“That training, it’s for other invasive pests and plants as well,” Mokiao-Lee said. “We saw it as an opportunity to talk to individuals about little fire ants and myconia as well.”

Cleaning hiking equipment, especially boots, with alcohol after being out in the forests is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of invasive species, and another tip is to be sure not to cut any ohia trees, as the pathogen that causes ROD can be contracted through wounds in the bark.

“We’ll have another round of trainings all across the islands as we’re looking into the new year,” Mokiao-Lee said. “It worked out perfect with the timing this round, with the two recent detections (of ROD on Kauai), meeting and getting them (the county council and tour operators ) up to speed.”

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Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.

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