(LONG) Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora ramorum)
Daniel B. Wheeler
dwheeler at ipns.com
Mon Nov 12 00:06:26 EST 2001
>From Forest Log, Newsletter of the Oregon Department of Forestry,
Nov/Dew 2001, p 4
Efforts Underway in Oregon to Stop Spread of Deadly Oak Disease
By Arlene Whalen, OF Public Information Officer
For the last several years, Oregonian have watched our California
neighbors struggle to cope with a deadly and rapidly spreading plant
pathogen (Phytophthora ramorum) that has killed susceptible trees and
vegetation throughout several counties near San Francisco. Now our
west fears are being realized as this new disease, dubbed Sudden Oak
Death, is making its way to Oregon, killing native tanoak, coastal
live oak, black oak, madrone, rhododendron and evergreen huckleberry.
It's also affecting other species such as bigleaf maple, manzanita and
As of September, the disease was located within a eight-square-mile
area of forestland near Brookings in Curry County, and affecting
patches of trees ranging in size from less than one acre to about 12
acres. Fortunately, there is hope that Oregon can stop the spread of
the pathogen, although there are certainly no guaranteed.
Early Detection Important
Because pathologists from the Oregon Department of Forestry (OF), the
Oregon Department of Agriculture, the U.S> Forest Service and Oregon
State University spotted and identified the pathogen early in Oregon,
it give us more opportunity to take constructive action.
This wasn't the case in California. In 1995, when trees started dying
near San Francisco, California wasn't sure what they had on their
hands. Oregon, on the other hand, had the benefit of being put "on
alert" when the problems surfaced in California.
As is true with many diseases, it can take time to conduct the tests
needed to make a correct diagnosis.
"We are unsure whether our eradication efforts are going to be
successful," said Alan Kanaski, OF forest pathologist. "But we have as
good a chance as we'll ever have. At this point, Sudden Oak Death is
too well established in California to eradicate, and it is still
spreading. California has now gone to a management approach, trying to
find a way to live with the problem and minimize its impact."
Unfortunately, at present, California's management options appear to
be limited to establishing a quarantine of the infected areas to
control its spread. there aren't any registered chemicals available
that can be sprayed to curtail the disease.
Oregon, on the other hand, may still be able to successfully
eradicate the disease by cutting and burning host plants in infested
areas, which also includes a 50- to 100-feet perimeter around them,
and establishing quarantines. So far, there have been eight confirmed
infestations of Phytophthora ramorum found in southwestern Oregon.
These areas include industrial forestland, Bureau of Land Management
property, and nonindustrial private lands.
ODA is Lead Agency in Combating Sudden Oak Death
The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) is acting as the Suddden
Oak Death lead agency because the fungus is an non-native or invasive
species, and it is the ODA's job to regulate and establish appropriate
When infested areas are identified, ODA notifies landowners through
"Administrative Directives," or letters of notification, that instruct
them on the actions they need to take to eradicate the disease on
their property. This includes cutting and piling the affected
trees/vegetation and burning them as soon as possible in the fall.
Whatever is left over is burned in the spring.
Because such eradication efforts an be very expensive, ODF
administrators have worked in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Servcie
to acquire a federal emergency grant to reimburse landowners. "We
don't yet know how much the eradication efforts will cost, but it
could be as high as $2,000 or more per acre," said Kanaskie. "Timber
companies and the BLM could probably absorb such costs, but it's a
different story for most nonindustrial private landowners. We can't
compensate landowners for the loss of timber or value, but we can
reimburse affected landowners for the work they need to do to treat
their infested areas." According to Jim Mair, ODF forest operations
manager, the department is already looking ahead - plans are in the
worlds to apply for a similar pest suppression grant for next year.
Help from the Public is Needed
The successful eradication of Sudden Oak Death in Oregon will take
more than the coordinated efforts of the ODF, Oregon State University
(OSU), ODA and the U.S> Forest Service; it will also tkae public
cooperation. "People need to stay mindful of the risks when they are
hiking, biking and recreating," said Mair. "This disease can
potentially be spread by people wandering through infested areas. The
Muir Woods National Monument near San Francisco, for example, is full
of it. Anybody mountain biking or hiking through infested areas could
cary it on their shoes or their bikes."
"A quarantine sounds good," quips Kanaskie, "but the reality is there
are no border patrols or check stations at the California border.
Enforcement is a weak link in establishing a quarantine. We are all
dependent upon each other to do what we need to do to stop the spread
of Sudden Oak Death."
An important part of those preventative measures is not moving host
plants from infested areas. The implications are broad. Besides
timber, there is a very large non-timber forest products industry in
southwestern Oregon that is affected by Sudden Oak Death. Bough and
plant gatherers, for example, collect these species and sell them all
over the world.
"We need to do what we can to make sure other states and countries
don't get this problem, either," said Kanaskie. He and other
pathologists do not believe there is much likelihood of the organism
naturally mutating to affect other species, but he stresses that
allowing the free movement of the fungus across state and
international boundaries increases the chance of severe disease
As yet, no one really knows how Sudden Oak Death is being spread
naturally in the environment. According to Mair, there are millions of
dollars being spent just in California alone to research the disease.
"There are three ways to identify the organism," said Mair. "Through
DNA analysis, through cultures and through a protein test. Although it
has been isolated in soil, the evidence points to it being primarily
an airborne organism."
Accoding to Kanaskie, researchers have not ruled out the possibility
the disease cold be spread by birds or insects. "I think it must have
a long-distance vector," said Kanaskie. "When you look at the
distribution of infested areas, it seem to be jumping from one area to
another. You can go for miles and miles and have healthy forest and
then suddenly find a diseased patch. There also appears to be a large
jump from where they have it in California and where we have it in
Oregon. However, it may be that the disease just hasn't been
discovered in northern California, close to Oregon's infested areas."
Battle Just Beginning
The battle against Sudden Oak Death has just begun in Oregon. ODF,
ODA, OSU and the U.S. Forest Service have ever intention of
aggressively keeping up their guard, especially during the rainy
season. This means continued aerial monitoring and ground surveys,
extensive lab testing, establishing necessary quarantines, and lots of
According to Kanaskie, we are lucky that two very seasoned aerial
observers detected the problem early in Oregon. "Mike McWilliams (ODF
survey and monitoring specialist) and Ellen Goheen (U.S. Forest
Service pathologist) saw the signatures from the air and followed up
with field checks," said Kanaskie. "Within days, Everett Hansen's OSU
pathology lab had positive results and the work began. It's beeen a
fluid situation every since, with things changing almost daily."
Even though ODF pathologists are uncertain how far-reaching the
effects of Sudden Oak Deah will be in the state, they are certain
about the level of cooperation and support Oregonians have provided to
help battle the problems. From the very beginning - when the disease
was confirmed and announced publicly - people have been stepping up to
the plate to make a difference.
"I still recall the ODA's first public Sudden Oak Death meeting in
southwestern Oregon. Everybody at that meeting was on board and
willing to do whatever they could do," commended Kanaskie. "With that
going for us, as well as the phenomenal level of cooperation we're
experiencing between the agencies dealing with this emergency, we're
in a strong defensive position."
For More Information about Sudden Oak Death
On the Web: To learn more about Sudden Oak Death, check out the
following web sites:
Oregon Department of Forestry - www.odf.state.or.us
Oregon Department of Agriculture - www.oad.state.or.us
California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection - www.fire.ca.gov
California Oak Mortality Task Force - www.cnr.berkeley.edu/comtf
Where to Call: Individuals in southwestern Oregon who suspect they may
have spotted trees infested with Sudden Oak Death should contact the
Golf Beach - Oregon State University Extension Office, Frank Burris,
(541 ) 247-6672 OR (800) 356-3986
Coos Bay - Oregon Department of Forestry, Service Forester Jennifer
Wright, (541) 267-1753
General questions regarding Sudden Oak Death may also be directed to:
Federal Land: U.S. Forest Service, Pathologist Ellen Goheeen, Central
Point, (541) 858-6126
Private Land: Oregon Department of Forestry, Pathologist Alan
Kanaskie, Salem, (503) 945-7397
Oregon Department of Agriculture, Nancy Osterbauer, Salem, (503)
Questions regarding quarantines/regulations should be directed to:
Oregon Department of Agiculture, Nancy Osterbauer, Salem, (503)
Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler
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