Three scientists were honored by the Hawaiʻi Invasive Species Council with the Greatest Hits award for their work in the fight against Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death. Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death is a virulent disease that has killed more than 100,000 ʻōhiʻa trees on Hawaiʻi Island.

The honorees were Extension Forester J.B. Friday of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), Flint Hughes of the USDA Forest Service Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry and Lisa Keith of them USDA Agricultural Research Service Pacific Basin Agriculture Research Center.

Through their work, the cause and possible transmission vectors have been identified, the locations of infected trees have been mapped and preventatives, treatments, genetic resistance, possible insect vectors and many other aspects are being tested in an effort to save the ʻōhiʻa Their proposal to the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture to quarantine ʻōhiʻa wood moving off the Big Island has led to the prevention of infected logs being shipped to other islands. [source]

Outreach and next steps against Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death

Time is of the essence when it comes to preventing the spread of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death through community and professional outreach.

“One of our next steps is get crews of people from other islands over here to do on-the-ground training, so they know what to look for,” Friday explains. He is reaching out to colleagues at the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Hawaiʻi Association of Watershed Partnerships and Hawaiʻi Invasive Species committees on each island. “They are the eyes on the ground.”

He notes that other CTAHR researches are taking a close look at the role of insects in the spread of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa death, and is very supporting of the ʻōhiʻa seed-banking campaign currently underway at Lyon Arboretum.

“I think it’s great what they’re doing at Lyon Arboretum, banking the seeds. There are many rare varieties of ʻōhiʻa, we want to make sure we preserve the diversity of the trees we have in the field.”

VIDEO: Seeding the future of the ʻōhiʻa tree

More about the Lyon Arboretum #ohialove seed-banking effort at