A fungus, identified recently, has been found to kill a tree known for being extremely critical to water supply in Hawaii, endangered native birds in the state and the region’s cultural traditions such as hula.
Experts are saying a disease called rapid ohia death is responsible for this mess. Latest reports suggest that the condition has hit millions of ohia lehua trees in the Big Island. According to data collected till last year, the rapid ohia death has been found to affect as much as 50% of ohia trees across a forest area of 6,000 acres. However, experts believe that since then the impact of the disease has spread much further.
Robert Hauff, who currently adorns the position of the forest health coordinator at the state’s Department of Land & Natural Resources, said that Hawaii is looking to carry out aerial surveys in January 2016 for finding out the exact area of land affected by this newly identified fungus. Also, a global expert with knowledge in similar diseases is expected to pay a visit to the Hawaiian Islands for helping the state understand what exactly it should do for controlling the outbreak.
When speaking to the reporters at a recent news conference held in Honolulu, Hauff said that if not controlled quickly, the fungus might spread statewide and decimate the entire ohia forest boasted by the state of Hawaii. According to him, right now the picture is appearing pretty bleak.
Ohia population is extremely vital to the state’s water supply as these trees can soak water effectively and thus help in replenishing watershed. The population of this tree species is also important for some of the state’s native birds as they feed on nectar produced by flowers of the tree. That’s not all; these trees are also crucial for the state’s ecosystem as they create a canopy for allowing several native plants of the region to grow underneath them in the forest.
As these trees hold so much importance for the state, Hawaii’s Department of Agriculture has developed a series of rules that prohibit people from moving flowers, wood and all other parts of ohia lehua trees from one island to another. Additionally, for preventing the spreading of the deadly fungus, the state officials are taking steps to encourage people to keep shoes, clothes and tools before they come in contact with ohia.