Environmental activists and state authorities are suffering from a state-wide panic because Hawaii trees are under the threat of death by fungus. The trees targeted by the fungus are the ohia trees, spread across 12.000 acres in the state.
The ohia lehua trees are an extremely important part of the environment because they replenish the earth’s water supply, as well as providing a food source for endangered bird species. The Hawaiian culture also relies heavily on the trees, with them being part of the traditional hula.
Over the course of last year, 50% of the trees’ numbers have been infected with the “ohia wilt” caused by the fungus, eventually leading to a rapid death. The disease consists of interrupting the normal flow of xylem inside the tree’s system, constricting vessels and blocking the transport of water and nutrients to different parts of its body, leaving them to wilt away.
What is more disconcerting is the fact that the fungus is still not documented upon. One main trait that this fungus has, apart from its preference toward ohia trees, is how symptoms pertaining to the disease only appear after a complete infection. This leads to an extremely wide spread through the use of agricultural tools and other similar means.
The methods of prevention accessible thus far are a rigorous cleaning regimen for tools, shoes, and clothes when coming into contact with ohia trees. Because infection symptoms are basically invisible, one may be working in a healthy-looking forest when in fact all the trees have been infected by the fungus. After completing his or her work, the person may go to another healthy forest, infecting it in the process.
Transporting flowers, roots, or wood from ohia trees between the islands has also been strictly prohibited. By doing this, the state hopes to contain the outbreak to at least the Puna, Kona and Kau regions of Hawaii.
Several aerial survey will be conducted by the Hawaiian Department of Land and Natural Resources in order to further discern the spread of the fungus. The current fear which the department has is that the previous percentage of 50 may have been suffering a massive growth over the past months, leading to an almost state-wide infection. If this occurs, Hawaii will be facing an extremely dire future.
Besides providing water supply replenishment and bird habitats, ohia trees also possess large numbers, creating shelters where other plants can flourish. The entire ecosystem will suffer a massive hit if these trees will suddenly become extinct.
A global expert in fungus related diseases has been called in order to provide information in regards to a possible outbreak. This person will also help in finding the exact fungus that threatens the ecosystem, as well as introduce new means of protecting it from the “ohia wilt”.
Taking into account that Hawaii trees are under the threat of death by fungus, endangering the whole ecosystem and the Hawaiian culture as well, steps towards quelling this outbreak need to be urgently made. If the current preventive measures prove to be insufficient, the future of the Hawaiian Islands may be destabilized to its core.