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Dec 29, 2015 06:37 AM EST

Fungus destroying trees in Hawaii forests


A fungus, called ceratocystis fimbriata, is destroying the trees in Hawaii, Apex Tribune reports.

The fungal disease was named Rapid Ohia Death (ROD) and has already killed hundreds of thousands of Ohia trees in the Hawaii forests.

The Ohia trees are crucial to the ecosystem of the Hawaii forests since these trees are essential for forest supplies.

Even though the disease is new to Hawaii and it has only affected the Big Islands forests so far, researchers fear that the fungal disease could expand across the state.

"Worst case scenario is that it spreads statewide and it decimates all of our ohia forests. It's a pretty bleak picture," said Robert Hauff, the forest health coordinator at the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), according to HNGN. 

The Hawaii agencies and federal agencies have joined hands to find a way to reduce the spreading of the disease and eventually fight it off.

The disease was first detected in the forests of Puna in 2014.

The Ohia tree is considered the most important tree in Hawaii. These trees cover over one million acres and play a very important part in protecting the state's watersheds.

These trees are also a part of the Hawaiian culture as the leaves are used for the traditional hula, a dance performed dressed in a costume made out of leaves and flowers which is not only very popular among people in Hawaii.

According to ABC News, Sam Ohu Gon III, senior scientist and cultural adviser at the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, said ohia wood was used for weapons, hula instruments, homes and temples in ancient Hawaii.

"It's a fundamental blow to the natural foundations of Hawaiian culture as far as I'm concerned," Gon said.

"It's very important thing, therefore, for anyone who has any love at all for those elements of where we live."

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