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UC a leader in the fight against Sudden Oak Death

The Issue

Sudden Oak Death is a disease of oak trees caused by an introduced fungus-like organism, Phytophthora ramorum. This destructive pathogen is now killing oaks by the millions in 14 coastal counties, affecting watersheds and altering forest ecosystems and species diversity.

What Has ANR Done?

As early as 1995, Marin County homeowners noticed tanoaks dying in the Mount Tamalpais watershed. Cooperative Extension advisors and staff quickly began working in collaboration with other UC researchers and outside agency personnel to initiate community-wide education and research activities. In less than one year, we helped bring together 23 researchers and over $3 million in state and federal funds to help prevent the spread of the disease. Soon after, CE began working with the local Marin County Sudden Oak Death Task Force and then moved to a statewide arena with the formation of the California Oak Mortality Task Force (COMTF) in 2000. Since 2002, a dedicated Sudden Oak Death Outreach Coordinator, Janice Alexander, has worked through CE Marin and the COMTF to coordinate and deliver outreach on the disease, locally, nationally, and internationally. The website suddenoakdeath.org averages more than 4,000 visits per month, while the mailing list has over 1,100 subscribers to the monthly newsletter. In December 2010, Alexander and environmental horticultural advisor Steven Swain published a revised UC IPM Pest Note for Sudden Oak Death to assist homeowners and landscape professionals in identifying and managing the disease.

The Payoff

Leadership and collaborative response to a natural resource crisis

While the local, natural spread of this disease remains dependent on climate conditions, the longer-distance spread by people moving plant materials is a factor we have direct influence over. By focusing our education and outreach on this critical control point, we help keep more forests free of this disease. At the same time, we assist those who have already been affected by providing the latest management recommendations and research updates.

Clientele Testimonial

“The COMTF website acts as a 'one-stop shop,' a central information hub for information on SOD.”
- Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London, South Kensington, October 2009.


Supporting Unit:

UCCE Marin, UCCE Humboldt, Center for Forestry
Janice Alexander, (415) 499-4204, jalexander@ucdavis.edu