This paper is to inform the public about the ever-spreading disease that has been found in coastal areas of California and other Pacific coastal states. Its effects on the oak trees of the area have played a big part in people’s lives in more ways than one. Social, political, and economic impacts of this disease have hit home causing extreme concern into preventing the spread of this Sudden Oak Death. My strong opinion will be represented throughout this paper in order to inform students in this class and the public in general, about the huge impact this disease has caused and will continue to cause in the future. As an avid believer in preserving our natural resources, this topic is a good one for me to research and present to you.
Large numbers of tanoaks, coast live oaks, and black oaks have been dying in California’s coastal counties since 1995. This epidemic has since been known as Sudden Oak Death. Since 1995, it has been confirmed in twelve central coastal counties in California. In determining the cause of this disease, researchers have identified a species of Phytophthora, which is a fungus-like organism, from dying trees. In later research, they have found that this Phytophthora ramorum may be spread though rainwater, infected wood and also soil. This would be possible because rainwater may carry this disease to other trees though groundwater, flooding, rivers/streams and also maybe transported by the wind carrying soil though the air and displacing the diseased soil near oaks in other areas.
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One of the major Oaks affected is the famous redwood. This California icon is a valuable resource as timber and may be vulnerable to the disease. It has also been killing the red oaks that are used by the hardwood and timber industry in making furniture, cabinets and other wood products. This is an example of how this disease has impacted us socially. When homeowners watch their precious oaks die by the thousands, they become appalled. These infected trees are home to many animals and birds as forms of habitat and food. Large amounts of diseased trees can also affect our carbon dioxide amounts due to the lack of photosynthesis. The leaves turn yellow and they begin to round off and become spiky. They also form rust spots on the leaves and an ooze seeps out from the trunk. Once these conditions happen, it’s too late to save the tree. Gaining currency about whether or not this disease will spread into the interior of the United States is a sign of a political impact that has been debated by plant pathologist. This was until the disease popped up in the maple trees in the Sierra Nevada foothills nearly 100 miles away. This produced evidence that this aggressive pathogen is highly capable of adapting to different trees and environments. If this disease can spread so easily, what will happen in years down the road when its effects have spread all over the country or even the world? Will we have enough wood resources to supply our demand which is ever growing? These are just a couple questions that we must ask when determining how we should attack this problem.
Even though the federal government spends over $85 million to do research on this Sudden Oak Death, the scientist have yet to determine exactly how this disease originated, how it spreads, or how to get rid of it. They do know that in just a matter of a few months, the Phytophthora ramorum spores penetrate the bark in the trunk, and eat the cambium, which is a layer or tissue that supplies the trees with food and nutrients. “The scientists are studying whether pollution or short-term climate changes might have sparked the disease. They’re looking at how the disease fits into the forest dynamic, whether animals and other plants play a role. Because oaks are popular trees in residential areas, humans may be a factor, through pruning and other tree-management techniques.”
When looking at what we can do about this disease, the government thinks it might have slowed the spreading of the Sudden Oak Death by regulating its movement of host plants from nurseries. This has shown to be a good way of reducing the contamination of other trees by reducing their contact with infected ones. An economic issue concerning the disease is one brought to the attention of the U.S. Energy Department. They were asked by scientists to fund the gene mapping of the pathogen. But when looking for a cure to the disease, no real answer has come about. In labs, scientists have studies organic chemicals and compounds that might prevent the Phytophthora spores from infecting the tree. Different trunk coatings have also been tested by scientists in order to prevent the infection. Despite all these tests and methods of curing the disease, no real solution has led the scientist to finding an answer for the Phytophthora. As of right now, the only solution the scientists have come up with is to just remove the host plant from the forest which could cause severe ecological damage to the ecosystem.
In conclusion, I would like to stress the importance of testing and finding a solution to this problem. If this spreading of the Sudden Oak Death keeps spreading and ultimately reaches the interior of the states, it could cause even more severe social, economical, political, and ethical problems than we have now. The need for more testing is something that we must embrace and seriously look at in order to preserve our wonderful resources. We must look down the road towards our future generations and realize that our decisions now will impact the lives and resources of our kids. In order to save our wonderful trees, we must support further research for the curing of this disease.
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