Public Helps Track Sudden Oak Death

–The Associated Press

Posted: 10/4/2010

University of California, Berkeley scientists are enlisting the public’s help in tracking a disease that is killing off oak trees.

For the past two years, scientists have been counting on residents to collect tree samples and send them to the university’s Forest Pathology and Mycology Laboratory. They have used the information to create a map plotting the spread of sudden oak death.

The mysterious pathogen was first discovered in Mill Valley in 1995 and has since killed tens of thousands of trees in northern California and southern Oregon. Scientists estimate the disease, transmitted through host plants and water, could kill as many as 90 percent of California’s live oaks and black oaks within 25 years.

The mapping project, funded by the U.S. Forest Service, is the first community-based effort to combat sudden oak death. It had about 240 participants collecting more than 1,000 samples last year, said Matteo Garbelotto, a UC Berkeley forest pathologist and the nation’s foremost expert on sudden oak death.

“This is part of the solution,” Garbelotto told the San Francisco Chronicle. “If we educate and involve individual property owners, we can make a really big difference.”

Once an infested area is identified, homeowners can remove host trees, which can increase oak survival rate nearly tenfold. Residents also are urged not to do large-scale projects that could disturb the soil and trees during the rainy season because it could help spread the disease.

“Each community that learns they have sudden oak death in their neighborhoods should say, ‘Hey I better do something,’ because by the time you notice the trees are dying, it is already too late,” Garbelotto said.

Click here for a full article on Berkeley’s efforts to track Sudden Oak Death.