Kauai News

New Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death Infections Detected on Multiple Islands

Posted June 17, 2020, 1:46 PM HST

The Department of Land and Natural Resources has confirmed new infections of the fungal disease known as Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD) across all islands.

As COVID-19 restrictions on outdoor activities are being lifted, many people are returning to Hawai‘i’s forests to hike, hunt, and to participate in other recreational activities. It’s important that forest goers clean their boots, vehicles, and equipment of any dirt and soil, as well as spray with a 70% alcohol solution to ensure they are not transporting the fungus that causes ROD.

“With our ability now to visit and hike on neighbor islands, it is more important than ever to remind people that they can accidentally spread diseases and weeds unless precautions are taken,” DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said. “As COVID-19 very effectively demonstrates protecting our way of life and our natural resources in Hawai‘i requires everyone’s care and participation.”

Newly ROD-affected areas are as follows:

On Kaua‘i, more diseased trees in the area of the island’s first detection have been found, as well as in new locations on the island’s north shore. Due to detections of Ceratocystis lukuohia, the more aggressive of the two ROD fungi, near Moalepe, Kuilau and Powerline Trails in Wailua, extra care should be taken to clean boots and gear after hiking in these areas. 

On Hawai‘i Island, in the Laupāhoehoe Forest Reserve, more than one hundred trees have been tested as ROD positive, threatening some of the state’s most impressive ʻōhiʻa  forests. An earlier small outbreak (Nov. 2016) was effectively contained. Disease samples are being analyzed to help understand whether this is spread from the original diseased trees or whether the disease has been reintroduced from other areas.

On O‘ahu, a fifth detection of C. huliohia, the less aggressive species of fungus, was made on the popular Poamoho trail. Since tree removal was not feasible, managers felled and tarped the tree to prevent the fungus from spreading in the environment. Hikers and hunters should not disturb this signed management area and be sure to clean their boots and gear before and after entering the area.

On Maui, a single tree infected with C. huliohia was detected and removed on in July 2019. Ongoing surveys have found no new disease. No detections have been made on Molokai and Lanai. 

Since first detected, Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death has killed hundreds of thousands of trees spread over more than 50,000 acres of forest. Over the past few months, field crews have continued sampling for ROD in ʻōhiʻa forests and the lab at the USDA Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo continues processing high-priority samples.

Updated island maps, ROD outreach materials, and virtual activities are available at www.rapidohiadeath.org.