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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Hilo, Hawaii » Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center » Tropical Plant Genetic Resources and Disease Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #330917

Research Project: Molecular Resources for the Improvement of Tropical Ornamental and Fruit Crops

Location: Tropical Plant Genetic Resources and Disease Research

Title: Assessing spatial distribution, stand impacts and rate of Ceratocystis fimbriata induced 'Ohi'a (Metrosideros polymorpha) mortality in a tropical wet forest, Hawai'i Island, USA

item MORTENSON, LEIF - Us Forest Service (FS)
item HUGHES, FLINT - Us Forest Service (FS)
item FRIDAY, JB - University Of Hawaii
item Keith, Lisa
item BARBOSA, JOMAR - Stanford University
item FRIDAY, NATHANAEL - Dartmouth College
item LIU, ZHANFENG - Tetra Tech
item SOWARDS, TRAVIS - Us Forest Service (FS)

Submitted to: Forest Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/15/2016
Publication Date: 10/1/2016
Citation: Mortenson, L., Hughes, F., Friday, J., Keith, L.M., Barbosa, J., Friday, N., Liu, Z., Sowards, T. 2016. Assessing spatial distribution, stand impacts and rate of Ceratocystis fimbriata induced 'Ohi'a (Metrosideros polymorpha) mortality in a tropical wet forest, Hawai'i Island, USA. Forest Ecology and Management. 377:83-92.

Interpretive Summary: The potential rate and result of Rapid 'Ohi'a Death (ROD) occurring in a tropical wet forest of Hawai'i was assessed by spatial distribution.

Technical Abstract: Pests or pathogens that affect trees have the potential to fundamentally alter forest composition, structure and function. Throughout the last six years, large areas of otherwise healthy 'ohi'a (Metrosideros polymorpha) trees have been dying rapidly (typically within weeks) in lowland tropical wet forest on Hawai'i Island, USA. This mortality is quite distinct from previous well-documented 'ohi'a dieback episodes driven by cohort senescence. Ceratocystis fimbiata was identified and routinely found associated with rapidly dying individuals of 'ohi'a, Hawai'i’s most widespread native tree. Pathogenicity of this fungus was proven and M. polymorpha was recorded as a new host for C. fimbiata. Mortality of 'ohi'a at this scale is of great concern as the understory in these forests is often occupied by invasive non-native species capable of severely limiting 'ohi'a regeneration. Imagery of 'ohi'a mortality obtained in 2012 revealed large expanses of greater than-expected mortality (i.e., = 10%) across 915 ha. Two years later 'ohi'a mortality levels = 10% had spread to 6,403 ha, or 30% of total area classified as 'ohi'a in our study area. Further, levels of 'ohi'a mortality in field plots established within the study region approached 57%, and mortality levels were comparable across size classes and forest compositions. Results from a subset of field plots re-inventoried one year after plot establishment revealed average annual ‘ohi‘a mortality rates of 24% and 28%, based on basal area and stem density measures, respectively; mortality rates were as high as 47% in some field plots. The death of 'ohi'a seedling recruitment and characteristic understory dominance of non-native species documented within our research plots, coupled with the lethality of C. fimbriata to 'ohi'a (Keith et al. 2015), suggest that these forests likely will be dominated by non-native species in the future.