Current Fungal Biology – Invasive fungi destroys native trees in Hawaii

Figure 1. Sites on Hawai'i main island with incidence of rapid ōhi'a death.

Figure 1. Sites on Hawai’i main island with incidence of rapid ōhi’a death.

Zebra mussels, asian carp, purple loostrife, spotted knapweed. These are some of the organisms that come to mind when we think of the term ‘invasive species.’ In Hawaii, its time to add the name Ceratocystis fimbriata to that list. C. fimbriata is the cause of rapid ōhi’a death (ROD) that is spreading quickly through Hawaii’s big island. Ōhi’a is Hawaii’s only tree species that colonizes lava flows and are a home to a number of rare species. Currently thought to be spread through the wind via wood dust created by ambrosia beetles in search of food, C. fimbriata has invaded close to 20,000 hectares of Hawaii’s forest. No one is quite sure how this particular strain got there in the first place, though a related Ceratocystis species affects Hawaiian pineapples, but it is clear that if it is not contained soon there could be a devastating effect on Hawaii’s ecosystem, including potential ill-effects on the island’s freshwater supply.

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Literature cited

Vesper I (2016) Alien fungus blights Hawaii’s native trees. Science (80- ) 354: 273

10.28.16

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