(BIVN) – Hawaiʻi continues to fund the fight against the spread of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, the fungal Ceratocystis fimbriata disease killing native ‘ōhiʻa forests on the Big Island.
On Wednesday, Governor David Ige announced the release of $1.264 million to fight the tree disease.
“The ‘ōhiʻa tree is the foundation of Hawaiʻi’s native forest, and it is critical to the health of our watersheds and ecosystems,” said Gov. David Ige. “Scientists are working hard to stop its spread, but many trees have already died on Hawaiʻi Island. This funding is focused on a Hawaiʻi Island-based response.”
On the same day the governor made his announcement, the Department of Land and Natural Resources gave an informational briefing before the State Senate Ways and Means & Water and Land Committees. DLNR chair Suzanne Case updated lawmakers on the spread of the fungus – which is now in North Kohala – and explained how the department is using the funds for survey, research, and outreach activities. DLNR will also be hiring staff through the University of Hawaiʻi.
According to the state, funds will be used to:
- Contract with the Carnegie Airborne Observatory to conduct additional aerial surveys on both Hawaiʻi and Maui islands using cutting-edge spectroscopy and LiDAR technologies. Surveys will be flown this month and complement earlier surveys from 2016 and 2017.
- Hire a full-time laboratory technician with an advanced degree in plant pathology to increase capacity for diagnostics and ROD research and continue preliminary genetic resistance work.
- Hire a full-time data management specialist to manage project data that is being stored in a DLNR hosted geo-spatial database accessible to all project partners. This database includes data from aerial surveys (both DLNR helicopter surveys and Carnegie data), ground surveys and laboratory results.
- Increase public outreach on Hawaiʻi island including producing and airing radio and television public service announcements and sponsoring community events.
- Contract forest pathology expert with experience in Ceratocystis diseases to conduct research and advise DLNR about their management.
- Support existing project staff of survey technicians (4), research post-docs (2) and to continue ongoing ROD research that otherwise would run out of funding before the end of FY18.
- Contract helicopter service for quarterly surveys and transporting crews to sites for survey and management.
- Purchase supplies and equipment such as chainsaws for on-the-ground team.