Public can help track sudden oak death

April 27, 2012

By Ned MacKay, San Jose Mercury News

Sudden oak death has become a major concern for the East Bay Regional Park District, other public agencies, and private landowners who are responsible for open space land management in the greater Bay Area. The disease has caused extensive tree mortality in Marin County, and seems to be spreading slowly into Contra Costa and Alameda Counties.

It is caused by a plant pathogen called Phytophthora ramorum, which is a growth that chokes off the vascular system in several kinds of trees. Coastal evergreen and redwood-tanoak forests are especially vulnerable. Bay laurel trees are a major vector. The growth seems to start in the bays, then spread to tan oak, coast live oak and several other oak varieties.

Prof. Matteo Garbelotto of UC Berkeley is heading up an annual monitoring program in which citizen volunteers are trained to identify symptoms of sudden oak death, then venture into local woodlands to collect samples for laboratory examination. The program, called "SOD Blitz," is funded by the U.S. Forest Service. The next training session will be from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 28, in the Garden Room of the Orinda Community Center. Afterward, volunteers will visit wooded areas during the weekend to survey for infected trees.

To sign up for the Orinda training, contact William Hudson at If you're interested, but can't make the session on Saturday, information about future sessions and the Sudden Oak Death program in general is available at Prof. Garbelotto's website.

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