Rapid ‘ohi‘a death found in new areas

LIHU‘E — The most recent helicopter surveys conducted by the Kaua‘i Rapid ‘Ohi‘a Death Rapid Response Team resulted in detections of the virulent fungal pathogen known as Ceratocystis lukuohia in two new areas on Kaua‘i, the upper Hanalei Valley and along the north side of Powerline Trail.

“We’re disappointed to find C. lukuohia in nine ‘ohi‘a in these areas,” said Sheri S. Mann, Kaua‘i district manager for state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife.

“But after extensive research into this new threat attacking ‘ohi‘a, we also know the fungal pathogens can move in the wind, by animals, and possibly by water, too. So, unfortunately, new detections aren’t as surprising as they are disappointing,” she said.

Two different species of fungal pathogens result in the rapid killing of ‘ohi‘a trees and fall under the disease name of rapid ‘ohi‘a death (ROD). Whereas C. huliohia may take months to years to kill ‘ohi‘a, C. lukuohia can kill a tree within weeks.

“The hopeful news is that the disease has not been detected in the biodiverse-rich areas of Kaua‘i such as Koke‘e State Park and the Alaka‘i Plateau,” said Kyle Kagimoto, DOFAW’s Kaua‘i invasive-species technician. “In these areas, ‘ohi‘a are critical to the preservation of our watershed and the needs of numerous endangered flora and fauna.”

Through August, the total number of ‘ohi‘a across Kaua‘i that have tested positive for C. lukuohia is 86 and the number testing positive for C. hulihia is 75. One tree tested positive for both pathogens. Another 161 trees were sampled but molecular testing revealed no detection for either pathogen.

To learn more about Rapid ‘Ohi‘a Death, visit rapidohiadeath.org and sign up for the Kaua‘i newsletter, ‘Ohi‘a: Tree of Life, at kauaiisc.org.

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