Surveys Indicate Maui Island Clear Of Tree-Killing Hawaii Fungal Disease

Aug 18, 2019

WAILUKU — A fungal disease local to Hawaii has not been rediscovered after being found on Maui for the first time earlier this year, officials said.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources did not find evidence of the disease known as rapid ohia death after completing air surveys Friday, the Maui News reported.

A single ohia tree was afflicted early July with Ceratocystis huliohia on a private beach about 53 miles east of Wailuku, officials said.

The tree tested positive for the less aggressive level of the fungus, which also plagued a tree on Oahu around the same time, officials said.

"On the bright side for our island in particular is that most ohia is on protected lands and in high elevations," said Jeff Bagshaw, communications and outreach specialist at the department.

Ohia grow on about 125 square miles (324 square kilometers) in Maui, "which is a lot more than people know or assume," Bagshaw said.

Rapid Ohia Death has affected vast amounts of land and thousands of trees on Hawaii Island since its detection in 2014, and the more aggressive fungus was responsible for killing 90% of the trees on the Big Island, officials said.

Quarterly aerial surveys are conducted and trees are tested across the islands to avoid an outbreak situation, officials said.

The best way to help protect ohia is to avoid injuring the trees, transporting the plants across islands and cleaning hiking materials including boot soles and vehicles, officials said. There is no known cure for the fungus, and it can be spread in soil that sticks to footwear, gear and tires.

Ohia trees are considered a keystone species that provide a habitat for endangered species and are important to Hawaii culture.