Green Guide

More surveys planned after rapid ohia death hits new area

Posted November 20

— More forest surveys are planned in the newest Big Island area hit by the rapid death of ohia trees.

Researchers say the fungal disease killed a tree estimated to be hundreds of years old. The tree is at least 100 feet tall in the Laupahoehoe area of the Hilo Forest Reserve.

"It was going down wind and now it jumped into Laupahoehoe, which is really concerning because that's the biggest and best ohia forest," University of Hawaii forester JB Friday told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald (http://bit.ly/2fSbqmL).

"We're not sure how it got infected," Friday said. "All the possibilities are open right now."

It's unclear whether the disease has affected other trees nearby.

Agencies including the Department of Land and Natural Resources will survey the forest more frequently, Friday said. The tree may be cut down and tarped to keep beetles from spreading the disease, he said.

Rapid ohia death was found in Puna and has spread to about 50,000 trees so far.

The native tree produces flowers used to make lei.

"It's really devastating to look at the forest and see the damage that rapid ohia death is doing to our ecosystem and our watersheds," land and resources Hawaii Island branch manager Steve Bergfeld said in a video distributed by the department. "These trees have been here for hundreds of years, and to see them go down to a disease like this is really heartbreaking."

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