It's too late to do anything about sudden oak death, which has already killed 1,000,000 trees

Phytophthora ramorum is a mold, related to the Irish Potato Famine pathogen, that causes some oak and tanoak trees to split open and bleed out all their sap, something called "sudden oak death."

It's killed a million trees in California since 1995, mostly north of Monterey County.

In Modeling when, where, and how to manage a forest epidemic, motivated by sudden oak death in California
, a new paper in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Cambridge, UC Davis and NSC Raleigh paint a dismal picture for the future of California's forests, and the forests of Oregon and even further north.

The researchers say that 2002 was the last year in which something could have been done about the disease. Containing it requires that affected trees be removed, along with adjoining trees, preventing the further spread of the disease. Now that the disease has spread as far as it has, there is no way that this method could be used, meaning the disease will continue to spread unchecked.

This has dire implications for carbon sequestration, as the tanoak trees the blight kills are especially important for "key ecological, economic and cultural roles."

The future of the blight will be "management and containment," rather than eradication.

Unfortunately, new research on this invasive disease, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday by Cobb and a group of colleagues, finds that while there may once have been a chance to stop the spread of sudden oak death — around the year 2002 — that opportunity has since passed. Forces didn't mobilize fast enough or spend enough money, and the disease model employed in the new research (a model not so dissimilar from those used to study how various diseases can spread among humans) suggests continual spread of the disease.

"Slowing the spread of P. ramorum is now not possible, and has been impossible for a number of years," the study states bluntly. The research was led by Nik Cunniffe of the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with researchers from the University of California, Davis and North Carolina State University.

This disease has killed a million trees in California, and scientists say it's basically unstoppable
[Chris Mooney/Washington Post]

(Image: Brendan Twieg, UCCE Humboldt and Del Norte Counties )

(via Naked Capitalism)