Conservation Management of Hawaiian Forests

The Global Airborne Observatory (GAO) is mapping forest conditions throughout the Hawaiian Islands, with a special focus on the detection of Metrosideros polymorpha, (also known as Ohi’a), Hawaii’s most important native tree species. The spread of Rapid Ohi’a Death, or ROD, to Ohi’a trees has increased over the years due to a highly aggressive foreign fungal pathogen called Ceratocystis fimbriata. The symptomatology of ROD includes rapid browning of the foliage in Ohi’a canopies, followed by defoliation and a graying of the residual canopy branches in the standing dead tree. Loss of this dominant native species is problematic in ecological terms as lost trees are most-readily replaced by invasive species.

Using three-dimensional Laser-Guided Imaging Spectroscopy data collected by the GAO over forested areas of Hawaii, our team has produced novel maps of trees in the ROD-related “brown leaf” state. These “brown leaf” maps are our best hope for tracking the spread of the disease, and have proved useful for understanding, and thus halting, the spread of this terrible disease.

Project Website

Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) – State of Hawaii
Avatar Alliance Foundation
Len Baker
William R. Hearst III


US Forest Service
US National Park Service
University of Hawaii
State of Hawaii