HONOLULU (AP) — An ohia tree-killing fungal disease local to Hawaii was discovered spreading on Oahu after wildlife officials conducted an aerial survey of the island forest, state officials said.
State Division of Forestry and Wildlife officials tagged 41 more trees that could be ailing from rapid ohia death after first discovering an infected tree in the summer.
Dozens of trees need to be tested for the disease, but the area is rugged and difficult to reach, state protection forester Rob Hauff said.
“It will probably take several months because they are all in different places,” he said.
Oahu is the fourth Hawaiian island where rapid ohia death has been recorded since its discovery in 2014, state officials said. The first infected tree was found July 31 near Kamehameha Schools land in a mountainous area above Pearl City.
The latest confirmed tree was found in the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve using a helicopter-mounted camera system developed by scientists at the University of Hawaii-Hilo, officials said.
That tree was infected with Ceratocystis huliohia, the less aggressive fungal pathogen of two types associated with the disease, state wildlife officials said.
This form is known to take months or years to kill ohia trees, they said.
The more aggressive form has been discovered on Kauai and is responsible for killing the majority of the ohia trees on Big Island, but it has yet to be confirmed on Oahu and Maui, officials said.
Since 2016, a coalition of public and private organizations have been conducting regular searches and testing of dead trees on Oahu, Hauff said.
There is no known cure for the fungus and it can be spread in soil that sticks to footwear, gear and tires.
Protecting habitat by fencing out pigs and goats reduces the prevalence of the disease by reducing damage caused by those animals, a recent study found.