HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii at Hilo recently received a six-figure grant for a study on the effects of Rapid Ohia Death on Hawaii's animal population.
The project, entitled "RAPID: Cascading effects of rapid and widespread mortality of a foundation tree species on animal communities in Hawaii," will use technology to record sound-producing animals in Ohia forests.
The National Science Foundation Grants for Rapid Response Research awarded UH Hilo researchers $197,086 for their research efforts.
As part of the project, researchers will also evaluate whether the diversity and composition of certain plant species moderates how animal communities respond to the loss of Ohia trees.
Rapid Ohia Death poses a serious threat to Hawaii's remaining native forests and the plants and animals that depend on Ohia. Previous research has been concentrated on understanding the pathology of the disease, how it's spread, and its impacts on Ohia trees.
"Despite these studies, however, there has not been an examination of how (the disease) is affecting animal communities reliant on Ohia forests, which is an important nesting ... and food resource for ... Hawaiian forest birds, 57 percent of which are threatened or endangered," said Kristina Paxton, adjunct assistant professor of Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science, in a statement.
She and biology professor Patrick Hart are spearheading the research project.
"Given the foundational role of Ohia in Hawaiian forests as the dominant tree in the canopy, widespread or total loss of Ohia would likely be catastrophic for endemic Hawaiian forest birds," Paxton said.