‘The Last of Us’ might have portrayed fungi in a world-devastating way, but they most likely didn’t know about the actual exterminators that are certain species of fungi actually are. For example, while one species is busy driving bananas to extinction, a different fungal disease is killing off Hawaii’s Ohia trees, wreaking havoc on ecosystem.
The fungal disease – Rapid Ohia Death
The Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources is concerned about the very rapid spread of the fungal disease known as Rapid Ohia Death, which is leading, as its name suggests, to a large decrease in the numbers of the Ohia trees, and perhaps even extinction.
Rapid Ohia Death is caused by Ceratocystis fimbriata, a species of fungi relatively new to the ecosystem. And this is probably the reason why it’s acting so fast.
First detected in the forests of Puna in 2014, the fungal disease has quickly spread across multiple forests, like the Kona and Ka’u Islands, as well as the Big Island.
The Rapid Ohia Death is so deadly, that it can kill a fully grown Ohia tree in about two week, with mortality rates varying between 50% and an abysmal 90%, depending on each tree.
ROD’s impact on the ecosystem
Afflicting a very large part of the Ohia tree population, the rapid Ohia Death can lead to serious changes in the entire Hawaiian ecosystem.
The trees are known for offering some rare native birds their only source of food, as well as for providing extensive fresh water resources.
Out of the 12,000 acres covered by the native Hawaiian trees, 6,000 have already been compromised by the fungal disease, with most of the trees in the area dying.
A number of governmental and private agencies have joined forces in order to come up with a plan to stop the Rapid Ohia Death, as if they don’t, it will mean significant losses for the entire state.
Among the earlier mentioned benefits provided by the trees, experts state that the trees are very important in providing forest watersheds. Not only that, but they are vital in the ancient and very popular Hawaiian tradition of Hula.
Arguably the most important tree in Hawaii, the Ohia tree is facing almost certain doom. If the agencies that joined forces cannot come up with a way to stop the spread of the fungal infection, the trees will most likely suffer the same fate that is about to befall the Cavendish bananas.
Image source: Wikimedia