LĪHU‘E – For the first time, the more virulent of two fungal pathogens known to cause Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death has been confirmed in the Kōke‘e area along Miloliʻi Ridge Road within Nā Pali Kona Forest Reserve. During helicopter surveys this month, one tree was flagged as highly suspect for the infection that leads to Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death.
“This detection is significant, because it means the disease is moving into pristine areas of Kauaʻi that are critical to our watersheds and provide habitat for rare plants and animals,” said Sheri S. Mann, Kauaʻi District Manager for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW). “Now more than ever, especially as we move into the holiday season when more people may be exploring our forests, we need everyone’s help in following bio-sanitation protocols.”
The Ceratocystis fungal pathogens can move through the environment in natural ways, including by wind. It can also be spread around the island by people in mud on their boots or on their vehicles. To help prevent the spread of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, experts recommend brushing all soil off footwear, including slippers. Use 70% rubbing alcohol to disinfect footwear and any gear used in the forest. It’s also recommended forest users wash mud off vehicles with a high-pressure hose or washer.
“The tree was a beauty, hundreds of years old, and bigger around than three people could wrap their arms around,” said Kyle Kagimoto, Invasive Species Technician with Kauaʻi DOFAW. “Its entire canopy was full of red leaves. That’s what caught our eye during our helicopter surveys.”
Since the tree is located right off Miloliʻi Ridge Road, an easily accessible road, signs have been placed near the tree and throughout the area to alert forest users. If excursions to Kōke’e include visiting more than one area or