Richard Cobb, post-doc with David Rizzo, is leading a study aimed at developing restoration treatments for forests degraded by sudden oak death. Like other invasive species, forest pathogens damage the resources provided by forests. These impacts include reduced water quality and carbon sequestration as well as increased fuel loading and fire risk. Along with managers at the Marin Municipal Water District, Susan Frankel at the US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, and Pete Hartsough (UC Davis – LAWR) Cobb and Rizzo are designing treatments that simultaneously improve water, carbon storage, and reduce fire risk.
“This is a really cool collaboration, we’re working directly with managers and operations crews to learn about the ecology of these forests. At the same time we’re finding cost effective ways to deal with disease impacts,” said Cobb during an interview with NBC Bay Area reporter Mark Mathews. “Its a mistake to ignore these forest simply because they are already invaded by Phytophothora ramorum, the pathogen that causes Sudden Oak Death. The disease has created hazardous fuels conditions and we need to understand how to deal with this in the context of continued disease.”
The study uses 30 acres of experimental treatments along with pre and post treatment measurements and operational costs to develop a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis. Over the next three years Cobb and colleagues will conduct a detailed assessment of changes in carbon sequestration, water quality, and reestablishment of overstory trees. An experimental planting with Sudden Oak Death resistant trees will be conducted in half of the study area during fall 2015. Within the water district well over 10,000 acres have been impacted by the disease but hundreds of thousands of acres have been similarly impacted by the disease in coastal California. This study will help understand the trade-offs wrapped up in management of these forests across a broad area.