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Conservationists try new method to stop spread of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death in Kauaʻi nature preserve


Conservationists are trying a new method to stop the spread of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death in a nature preserve on Kauaʻi.

Earlier this month, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources found an infected ʻōhiʻa tree in the Alakaʻi Plateau.

It’s the first time the fungus has been detected in the nature preserve at 4,100-feet elevation. ROD was first detected in a lower-elevation forest in northeast Kauaʻi about four years ago.

The Kauaʻi Invasive Species Committee is trying a new method to prevent rapid ʻōhiʻa death from spreading.

They believe ambrosia beetles burrow into infected trees and release fungal spores.

KISC ROD outreach specialist Kim Rogers says they are applying an odor to the infected tree.

"Basically, it’s a beetle repellent. It gets applied to the tree in dollops on the four cardinal sides of the trees. And the repellent basically mimics a scent that beetles make to tell other beetles, like, ‘Hey! We’re here, we’re colonizing this tree. It’s full, go somewhere else!’ So the idea is it repels beetles from the diseased tree – thereby keeps the fungal pathogen from escaping into the environment," Rogers said.

Rogers says a similar approach has been done on the continental U.S.

She says they will be observing the tree and beetles in the coming weeks.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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