Projects Invasive Species

Airborne observatory, drone photography among weapons researchers are using in battle against rapid ohia death

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Collaborating researchers showcased their wide-ranging technology for journalists Monday at the Hilo Air Patrol.

A tree can be infected with either of the two species of Ceratocystis fungi that causes ROD for months before symptoms of the illness — browning leaves — appear, but once symptoms do show up the tree dies within weeks. An estimated 75,000 acres of ohia forest on the Big Island have already been affected. More than 200,000 ohia trees died between 2015 and 2016, with some research estimates placing the number closer to 300,000.

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Outside Magazine: What’s Killing Hawaii’s Trees?

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Patient zero was probably in Puna, a lush, wild district not far from Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii’s Big Island. In 2010, the U.S. Forest Service and University of Hawaii started getting calls from distraught landowners in the area about ohia trees on their properties. Ohias, the bright, flowered trees that dominate nearly 50 percent of the island-state’s forests, are known for their ability to thrive nearly anywhere across the archipelago. But a swath of them had withered mysteriously and died in a matter of weeks.

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