Rapid Ohia Death spreads on Kauai as more infected trees are found

Rapid Ohia Death spreads on Kauai as more infected trees are found
Aerial surveying on Kauai. (Source: DLNR)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Rapid Ohia Death fungus continues to spread. State officials say it has turned up in two more places on Kauai.

The DLNR says the aggressive strain was found in upper Hanalei Valley, along with the north side of the Powerline Trail near Princeville.

They say the strain was found in nine ohia in those areas, which is a worrisome sign. The disease is believed to be carried by fungal spores blowing in the wind.

The fugus has already ravaged thousands of acres of cherished Ohia trees across the state, threatening the species.

“The hopeful news is that the disease has not been detected in the biodiverse-rich areas of Kauaʻi such as Kokeʻe State Park and the Alakaʻi Plateau,” said Kyle Kagimoto, the DLNR’s Kauai forestry division invasive species technician. “In these areas, 'ōhi’a are critical to the preservation of our watershed and the needs of numerous endangered flora and fauna.”

Officials are doing their best to track and control the disease, though mother nature has the upper hand in the battle.

“One way to help reduce the spread of the disease is to cut down infected trees to reduce the amount of fungal pathogens moving in the air,” said Tiffani Keanini, project manager of Kauaʻi Invasive Species Committee. “But we only drop a tree on low-wind days and only if it wonʻt injure another healthy ʻōhiʻa when it falls. In the past year, weʻve dropped 56 ROD trees.

Officials urge the public to not handle ohia or transport them to prevent the spread of the fungus.

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