Leilani Estates eruption helping Rapid Ohia Death disease - Honolulu, Hawaii news, sports & weather - KITV Channel 4

Leilani Estates eruption helping Rapid Ohia Death disease

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When it comes to Rapid Ohia Death, the Leilani Estates eruption appears to be saving trees by killing them.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the current lava flow has cleaned out a large portion of fungus Infected areas creating the perfect habitat for new Ohia to grow.

"The lava flows have eliminated many of those infected stands which in the process has eliminated the spores that are produced by the fungus," Flint Hughes, U.S. Forest Service research ecologist said. 

The disease was first identified on Hawaii Island back in 2014. Hundreds of thousands of trees on the island have already died due to the fungus.

Ecologists have pegged Leilani Estates as the epicenter. Hughes says young lava flows are ideal for Ohia seedlings, saplings and early stages of forest succession.

"Pele does the best job of anything in terms of providing habitat suitable and exceptional for Ohia recruitment regeneration and establishment of our Ohia dominant forests," Hughes said. 

Hughes adds Ohia is the first flowering plant that typically colonizes new lava flows on Hawaii Island and young trees are also much more resistant to being infected by the disease.

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