Oak rescue status: Year 4

13 07 2018


Four years ago I was contacted by some concerned folks about a very sick oak on their property in Carmel, CA. When I inspected the oak in 2014 I told the owners that I did not think it could be saved, but offered to do what I could to help if they so desired. Fortunately, the owners agreed, and after several years of fire mimicry treatments this coast live oak is showing clear signs of recovery. Note that the current photos show the oak after most of the dead branches have been recently pruned, and the light conditions are different. Still, it is clear to me that this oak is showing significant improvement in canopy density. My lesson here is to trust the property owners and simply do what I can to help the oaks, no matter how futile I think the attempt may be,


Happy Earth Day 2018!

22 04 2018

Happy Earth Day from Sudden Oak Life! A hopeful message from the oaks . . .



Slide02 Read the rest of this entry »

Declining oaks in Marin respond to fire mimicry

20 04 2018


As you may know many of the coast live oaks in Marin County, California are in severe decline. Here are examples of two oaks in Marin County, one in Mill Valley and the other in Larkspur, which were seriously ill upon my initial inspection. The oak in Larkspur was infected with a stem canker disease (probably Sudden Oak Death). Both trees have received fire mimicry treatments for several years, and the owners are pretty happy with the results.

With all the talk of exotic diseases, insect pests, and climate change being the main culprits of forest decline in California and elsewhere, here I show evidence that the real problem is that we are no longer tending our trees. In the words of M. Kat Anderson – “nature misses us”. Solutions are at hand, and they are not difficult to implement.


Slide1 Read the rest of this entry »

Sick redwoods in Alamo, CA respond to fire mimicry

19 10 2017


Last year I was contacted by a home owner in Alamo, California about his distressed valley oaks and redwood trees. Yesterday I checked on the status of the trees and today am reporting on the results with the redwoods. In a followup post I will report on the results with the valley oaks.

The redwoods were treated last October with fire mimicry methods, and in one year have made notable improvement in canopy health and size. The photos here tell theĀ  story far better than I can . . .

Slide10 Read the rest of this entry »

Diseased oaks flourishing after 12 years

29 11 2016


Twelve years ago today I initiated fire mimicry treatments on a grove of diseased coast live oaks in Marin County, CA. Since then Leith Carstarphen has been doing the followup work on these trees. Several of these oaks have stem canker infections, probably Sudden Oak Death disease. Two of the oaks in this grove have since died from stem canker infections, but the remainder of the oaks are clearly flourishing.

I should note that, for the above oak, the yellow appearance of the foliage in the recent (right) photo is due to dense clusters of yellowish male flowers.

These thriving oaks stand as testimony to the long-term efficacy of indigenous-based tending techniques (e.g., fire mimicry) in restoring the health of oak forests.




World Wood Day 2016 – Nepal

10 04 2016

I recently participated on a project in Nepal in support of World Wood Day 2016, sponsored by the International Wood Culture Society. There were over 100 countries represented by the participants! Our project involved building a temple out of reworked rubble from the 2015 earthquake. Below are some images of the experience.


IMG_3873 Read the rest of this entry »

Global warming in Oxford?

21 11 2015

I just returned from a trip to England where I gave a talk at the Geological Society of London on “Biological modification of pH in the earth system”. More on that later . . . After my talk I visited Green Templeton College at Oxford University where I worked as a Visiting Fellow in 1997. Located at the college is Radcliffe Observatory, home of the Radcliffe meteorological station, which has provided weather data since 1767 and constitutes the “longest series of temperature and rainfall records for one site in Britain“. This station is (was) part of the Central England Temperature record that purports to be “the longest instrumental record of temperature in the world“. Thus, with regards to surface observations on climate, this station is one of, if not, is the most important weather station in the world. (Update – Some commenters have pointed out that this station is no longer being used in the daily CET record. Based on this it does not seem to qualify as a most important record in the world. H/T Nick Stokes) I’ve been intrigued by this station ever since I saw it in the mid 90s, and have wondered what the area was like more than 200 years ago, and how the subsequent urbanization has affected those weather records.

When I arrived at the college I was a bit horrified to see this . . .

Radcliffe weather station A

How do you suppose this affects the temperature readings? The warm exhaust air from the heater is located about 20 feet from the temperature sensor. The porter said it was a temporary structure that was set up every so often. I was unable to consult with the weather observer about how this situation came about or whether any corrections are being made to the data.

Radcliffe weather station B