A new tree fungus that has emerged in Hawaii has killed hundreds of thousands of native Ohia Lehua trees.
According to the researchers, these trees are crucial for the water supply of the island and also support the engendered native birds as well as cultural traditions like Hula.
This disease is called Rapid Ohia Death (ROD) which was first detected in 2014 in Puna forests. Within one year, this fungus has already claimed 50% of the ohia trees spread across 6,000 acres of forest and is spreading rapidly.
Even though this fungus has only been reported in Big Island Forest, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) says that there is a risk of this fungus spreading to an entire state, says Nature World News.
"ROD is caused by a fungus called Ceratocystis fimbriata.
This disease is new to Hawaii and the strain of fungus infecting ohia, has never been described before," Dr. J.B. Friday, of the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service, said in a news release.
"While apparently only impacting Big Island forests currently, this has the potential of spreading statewide, so it's critically important we do everything to stop it."
The forest health coordinator of DLNR Hawaii, Robert Hauff, said that they are carrying out the aerial surveys starting in January 2016 to detect the exact area that has been infected by this fungus. Also an expert who is knowledgeable in these diseases will be paying a visit to the Hawaiian Islands to help understand what must be done to control the outbreak.
Hauff said in a recent news conference held in Honolulu that if the fungus is not controlled soon, it will encompass the entire state and will completely eliminate the Ohia forest from Hawaii.
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