LIHUE — The state updated its response plan for the fight against Rapid Ohia Death on Monday, calling for more than $20 million for research and combat of the disease over the next five years.
The 2020-2024 Rapid Ohia Death response plan calls for $4 million a year over the next five years to “continue progress toward understanding and addressing the fungal disease that has seriously impacted Hawaii’s native forests.”
The plan describes the need for continued emergency response efforts as well as for the long-term health of Hawaii’s forests.
Rapid Ohia Death is caused by two fungal pathogens, one more aggressive than the other, and can lead to death of ohia trees. It’s been found on the islands of Hawaii, Kauai, Maui and Oahu.
It was first discovered on Hawaii Island in 2014, according to the Hawaii Invasive Species Council and was confirmed on Kauai in December 2018.
Since then, a multi-pronged effort has been launched to help prevent the spread of the disease, including efforts in public education and scientific research.
In May 2019, a team converged at the University of Hawaii-Hilo campus and began updating the ROD strategic plan at the Rapid Ohia Death Science Symposium.
The plan details understanding of the disease and the microscopic fungi that cause it — understanding that’s improved through research by the ROD Science team, which is helping develop management options for ohia forests.
A statewide ROD Working Group continues to lead response efforts and now each island has formed multi-agency working groups for information exchange, effective and efficient resource allocation, and swift response to new positive detections.
The plan indicates that new outbreaks, “have elicited well organized, swift responses that apply containment, and, in some cases, eradication tactics developed using the best available science.
The team recognized that public engagement and outreach efforts have proven invaluable in developing broad awareness of the disease, its impacts to native forests and watersheds, and how to protect ohia.
They conclude that all efforts can and must continue in order to protect, as fully as possible, Hawaii’s critically important, ohia-dominated native forests.