A mysterious disease may spell doom for Hawaii’s native forests, since hundreds of thousands of the majestic ohia trees were killed so far by Ceratocystis fimbriata , the deadly fungi which cause the disease.
Experts believe that the Rapid Ohia Death may soon spread like wild fire across the state’s forests if authorities fail to contain it in due time.
The Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources (DLNR) recently announced that the fungal disease wreaked havoc among the Big Island’s Ohia trees, and experts are concerned that it may soon spread to other locations.
DLNR researchers said that it is the first time the disease was spotted in Ohio tree population, while this type of Ceratocystis fimbriata strain was never seen before. Several local agencies and federal authorities are currently striving to keep track of the disease’s proliferation rate and find methods to keep the spread at a minimum.
The state’s department of agriculture is also making up the state’s native forests are crucial for forest watersheds. The agencies pledged to do anything in their power to stop the disease from further spreading.
The first cases of Rapid Ohia Death were reported last year in the forests of the Puna district. From there, the disease rapidly advanced to other areas including Ka’u Island and Kona. Experts explained that the disease is so aggressive that it can kill a full-grown tree in about two weeks. The mortality rate in a region is between 50 and 90 percent, experts also said.
A spokesperson for the Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture recently told the media that about one million acres of land are covered with Ohia trees, which are seen as the most significant forest tree in the entire state.
The fungal disease however doesn’t only affect trees. It also leaves hundreds of native bird species without a home, puts at peril local water supply which heavily rely on Ohia trees and threaten ancient traditions including hula.
Experts named the recently detected disease the Rapid Ohia Death after they heard locals on the Big Island calling it so. According to other reports, the imact of the disease on local forests is even larger than experts had estimated in 2014.
Last year, reports showed that about half of trees were affected by the deadly fungi, which meant that more than 6,000 acres were affected. But recent reports suggest that the entire Ohia tree population was affected.
State officials recently announced that they initiated a quarantine on the Big Island, which bars transportation of trees from the island to other parts of the state.
Image Source: Flickr
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