Sudden Oak Death is changing the Bay Area landscape, according to a story in today's San Jose Mercury News by Julia Scott. The story was prompted by the removal of 40 dead trees in the forests surrounding Crystal Springs Reservoir. The trees were killed by Sudden Oak Death, which is gaining momentum in San Mateo County.
In the article, UC Berkeley forest pathologist Mateo Garbelleto offered a ray of hope, and what some might consider a worst-case scenario.
Garbelleto said a substance developed in his lab, Agri-Fos, can be applied to high-value trees to protect them from Sudden Oak Death. However, it would be cost prohibitive to treat all susceptible trees, so Bay Area forests will likely redesign themselves to accommodate changes over time.
"The oaks aren't going to disappear, but they're going to be rearranged," he is quoted. "These forests are going to progress more toward Douglas fir or they're going to go back into grasslands, which is the way the Bay Area was 150 years ago."
Officials looking for ways to eradicate light brown apple moth from California's Bay Area and North Coast seem to face skepticism of their every move. Aerial spraying of pheromones has been abandoned after opposition from residents in the infested areas. A story this week in the Contra Costa Times sheds doubt on a planned alternative program, releasing sterile moths to control the pest.
According to the article, UC Berkeley entomologist Andrew Guitierrez says the female light brown apple moth can mate several times in the one- to two-week period before laying eggs.
"Within a few days, 100 percent of them have mated, and they can mate up to five times. Most won't mate that many times, but all you need is a few who don't mate with sterile males, and the system doesn't work," Gutierrez was quoted.
Also, objections to plans to put pheromone-emitting twist ties in Sonoma Valley trees are being raised. CBS 5 ran a story on its Web site that said most of the 28 people who addressed the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors about the twist-tie program are concerned about the toxicity of the pheromone in the twist ties and the environmental and health consequences, especially to children.
The application of the twist ties within a 15-square mile area of the Sonoma Valley is on hold until the state Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determine whether there are endangered species living near a creek in that area.
The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that trees killed by Sudden Oak Death are making the fire raging near Big Sur burn hotter, spread faster and loom more periously over firefighters. The story says hundreds of thousands of oak trees in the area have succombed to the disease caused by the fungus-like organism Phytophthora ramorum.
For the article, Times reporter Deborah Schoch spoke to UC Davis plant pathologist David Rizzo. He said SOD has "reached its apex" in Big Sur.
"You look in some of these canyons, and you'll see 70 percent, 80 percent of tanoaks are dead," Rizzo was quoted. "The thing with Big Sur that's making it so bad is that's probably the worst place in the state for dead trees."
On the bright side, Rizzo said the fire won't completely douse SOD research efforts in the area.
"Even though our plots are burning up, from a research perspective, that's something we can take advantage of," he is quoted. "Hopefully, we can use this as a learning experience, in a sad way."
Glassy-winged sharpshooters made a tremendous spash in the California media back in the 90s when they were first introduced into California and began spreading Pierce's disease in grapes. They were never far from the minds of grape researchers and farmers, but the stories in the press almost completely disappeared. Until yesterday.
The Riverside Press Enterprise ran a 500-word story about renewed concerns of a Pierce's disease outbreak in Temecula wine country. According to the article, a grower and a UC Riverside scientist are warning that not enough wineries are applying a pesticide that kills the glassy-winged sharpshooter.
UC Riverside entomologist Nick Toscano told the paper that as many as 40 percent of Temecula-area wineries do not apply the pesticide to control GWSS, which sets the winery back $175 to $210 an acre.
There have been no widespread outbreaks of Pierce's disease since the late 1990s, but sharpshooters are still found in local vineyards, according to the article. The week of April 28, it said, close to 40 sharpshooters were caught in UC Riverside's sticky traps.
An interesting side note: The Press Enterprise posted a four-minute podcast with the story, which is simply an automated text reader robotically saying the words in the story.
A meeting of the California Oak Mortality Task Force in Marin is generating a spike in news coverage of Sudden Oak Death. Today, the main theme is where the disease took hold in California. UC Berkeley researcher Matteo Garbelotto reported on genetic testing of Phytophthora ramorum, the pathogen that is killing California oaks.
According to a story in the Marin Independent Journal, Garbelotto found the pathogen's forebears at a site on Bolinas Ridge within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, five kilometers from the Kentfield site where the disease was first observed in California in 1995. Garbelotto said the owner of that Kentfield home had an interesting story to tell.
"He said when he bought the house it had just been landscaped with a lot a rhododendron plants and that within a few months from the time he purchased it all the rhododendron plants died," Garbelotto was quoted. Rhododendrons are hosts of the disease.
The Santa Cruz location identified in the study is on Bean Creek, just outside a nursery that was shut down due to a Phytophthora ramorum infestation.
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Garbeletto was quoted as saying Sudden Oak Death is the "No. 1 most wanted" plant disease.
"It can travel around the world, it can wipe out hundreds of miles of forests," Garbeletto is quoted. "It is having a big impact in California - it is killing our favorite trees and disrupting the ecological network of our forests."
Some of the other media outlets that reported on Garbeletto's finding were:
The blog East Bay Express probably had the most quirky headline for the story: "UC Eggheads Find Where Oak Plague Started."
The Oak Mortality Task Force continues today.