Since its first documented introduction to Hawai‘i in 2005, the rust fungus Puccinia psidii has already severely damaged Syzygium jambos (Indian rose apple) trees and the federally endangered Eugenia koolauensis (nioi). Fortunately, the particular strain has yet to cause serious damage to Metrosideros polymorpha (‘ōhi‘a), which comprises roughly 80% of the state's native forests and covers 400,000 ha. Although the rust has affected less than 5% of Hawaii's ‘ōhi‘a trees thus far, the introduction of more virulent strains and the genetic evolution of the current strain are still possible. Since the primary pathway of introduction is Myrtaceae plant material imported from outside the state, potential damage to ‘ōhi‘a can be minimized by regulating those high-risk imports. We discuss the economic impact on the state's florist, nursery, landscaping, and forest plantation industries of a proposed rule that would ban the import of non-seed Myrtaceae plant material and require a 1-year quarantine of seeds. Our analysis suggests that the benefits to the forest plantation industry of a complete ban on non-seed material would likely outweigh the costs to other affected sectors, even without considering the reduction in risk to ‘ōhi‘a. Incorporating the value of ‘ōhi‘a protection would further increase the benefit–cost ratio in favor of an import ban.
Additional publication details
An economic approach to assessing import policies designed to prevent the arrival of invasive species: the case of Puccinia psidii in Hawai'i