Fungal Disease Is Killing Oak Trees in Parts of U.S.

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The scientists believe the pathogen can be carried long distances by the wind and birds. This may explain how the disease appeared in August in a remote section of forest in southwestern Oregon even though affected California counties had been quarantined to curb the spread of the disease.

Curbing the Spread

Government agencies in California and Oregon have spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours of labor to stifle the further spread of sudden oak death. In Oregon, where the disease was recently introduced, efforts are underway to cut down and burn all host plants in infected areas.

"If the fungus were to remain up in the tops of the trees, storms could very well blow it around and increase chances that it would spread," Alan Kanaskie, a forest pathologist at the Oregon Department of Forestry said in a statement about control efforts.

Oregon, along with Canada and South Korea, have implemented quarantines on oak products and all other hosts of the disease from California.

Meanwhile, the federal government and the state of California have allocated millions of dollars to combat the disease. Some of the money is funding research efforts like those led by Rizzo. Laboratory experiments at the Davis and Berkeley campuses of the University of California indicate that certain chemicals (phosphites) injected through small holes drilled into the bark of a tree can slow the progress of the disease, but nothing yet has been found to eliminate sudden oak death.

"The disease is here to stay," said Rizzo. "We just hope to prevent its spread to other areas."

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