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He dedicated his life to ohia research. His work led to encouraging news

Researchers discovered that in environments like second-growth forests, 'Ohi'a grows back strong, fast and resilient to diseases.
Published: May. 2, 2022 at 7:39 PM HST|Updated: May. 3, 2022 at 12:22 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There’s a bit of hope for Hawaii’s native ohia trees in the fight to stop a deadly fungus.

After decades of research on native ohia trees, two recent studies said hoofed animals and strawberry guava trees are adding to their demise.

But in deforested areas without invasive weeds, ohia grows back strong — fast and resilient to diseases.

This bit of good news comes just in time for ecologist Dieter Mueller-Dombois who has spent more than 50 years researching these trees.

At age 96 he is in hospice now, but he says he always knew these trees were resilient and worth fighting for.

“I miss it,” he said.

His wife, Annette, said he was known to his students as “Mr. Ohia.”

His colleague Flint Hughes is one of the folks that made the discovery. Hughes works for the U.S. Forest Service as an ecologist.

“That tells us again that our best opportunities to provide Ohia growing sites are those where we’ve controlled,” Hughes said. “Where we don’t have weeds in the first place or where we have made concerted efforts to control weeds to provide ohia with that open habitat that they need to re-establish and grow.”

Mueller-Dombois was the one who pointed Flint in the right direction of this research.

“It means the world is so gratifying to be able to get this research published,” said Hughes. “To go into the public sphere, and, and to have Dieter as a co-author and really a leader on the paper, that was so gratifying to me.”

Annette is still working with her husband to publish all of his research still waiting on his study shelves.

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