HONOLULU, Hawaii – The first Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death Summit was held on Oahu Wednesday. Lead scientists and state lawmakers gathered to share the most up-to-date information on the fungal disease has devastated more than 50,000 acres of important native ʻōhiʻa forest on Hawaii Island. Speakers also presented a recently completed, strategic response plan.
DLNR chair Suzanne Case introduced Governor David Ige, who delivered the opening remarks. After a presentation on the biocultural importance of ʻōhiʻa by Dr. Samuel M. ‘Ohukani‘ōhi‘a Gon III, a panel of state and federal experts gave power point talks illustrating their latest research and management actions.
“Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet (for a treatment) and the science is important for informing management decisions,” said Dr. Lisa Keith of the U.S. Department of Agricultural Research Service, who has been leading the way in identifying two species of the ceratocystis fungus, each which exhibit slightly different symptoms both which both fall under the Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death umbrella.
“We currently have 52, one-quarter acre monitoring plots on Hawaii’i island,” said Dr. Flint Hughes with the U.S. Forest Service Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry. “These are in places where the fungus has killed trees and our data shows that 11% of the ʻōhiʻa, on average, in these plots, will die each year. If there are 100 ʻōhiʻa in each plot, this means in about a decade all of the trees there will be dead.”
Dr. Gordon Bennett of the UH Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources detailed what is known about the link between the spread of the disease and a wood boring beetle attracted to the infected ʻōhiʻa.
DLNR forester Rob Hauff revealed the Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death Strategic Response Plan, which calls for $10 million in funding over the next three years for research, response, recommendations, outreach, and management strategies.