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Tree Deaths Spike as Sudden Oak Death Spreads

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Craig Rosa/KQED

A dead oak tree in Marin County.

The U.S. Forest Service says hundreds of thousands of oak trees have died over the last year due to the plant disease known as Sudden Oak Death. Scientists still don’t have a reliable way to control the epidemic.
 
The spike in tree deaths - more than 300,000 this past year - is due to a wet spring, which creates conditions that help Sudden Oak Death spread.
 
Susan Frankel of the U.S. Forest Service says they expect it to get worse. “Our models and observations predict that millions and millions and millions of tan oaks will die over the next 30 to 40 years,” she says.
 
Sudden Oak Death has spread to the East Bay, Big Sur and Mendocino. It was introduced to the Bay Area 15 years ago from nursery plants. The spores are spread by bay laurel trees.
 
“We are trying to develop resistant trees, but it will take some time to develop. And there are pesticide treatments,” Frankel says.
 
The treatments don’t work on trees that are already infected and are most likely too expensive to use on a widespread basis. Scientists at UC Berkeley are holding public meetings this fall about the symptoms and spread.
 
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