Last week a group of volunteers, assisted by Greg Laden of Marin County Open Space, visited a 400+ year-old coast live oak growing on King Mtn. I have reported on the progress of this oak in two previous posts: Grandfather oak and Grandfather oak – April 2011 update. This oak lies along the main trail up King Mountain and has captured the attention of many a hiker. Donna Shoemaker is one of those hikers. In the Fall of 2007 Donna contacted me about her concerns for the health of this oak. When I inspected it I found it was indeed in poor shape with signs of disease and insect infestation. I proposed a plan to her that could help the oak, but I was not optimistic that it would ever be cured. Donna organized a volunteer party to treat the oak and in December of 2007 we gave the oak its first of several fire mimicry treatments. There was an article by Richard Halstead in the Marin IJ (Sudden Oak Death Roars Back) that described the event, adding that “scientists studying the disease expect the (fire mimicry) treatments will prove futile”.
Well, I’m happy to report that 7.5 years later have NOT proved futile (UC scientists take note!). Grandfather oak is still alive and is noticeably healthier than before treatments began (see photos). The scientists studying sudden oak death have yet to come to terms with the success of fire mimicry. This is not surprising as their research is based on the disease model of forest health, whereas the fire mimicry approach is based on the ecological model of forest health. More than $100 million dollars has been spent studying one disease organism, Phytophthora ramorum, the pathogen that scientists claim “causes” sudden oak death. They are not about to disrupt that gravy train by expanding their scope of study to include ecological factors such as fire regime and soil pH. Their closed mindedness is our loss of so many oaks. Some day one oak too many will die and the mindshift will be inevitable . . . Read the rest of this entry »