Ecology and EpidemiologyOpen Access icon OPENOpen Access license

Transmission of Phytophthora ramorum in Mixed-Evergreen Forest in California

    Authors and Affiliations
    • Jennifer M. Davidson
    • Allison C. Wickland
    • Heather A. Patterson
    • Kristen R. Falk
    • David M. Rizzo

      Published Online:

      During 2001 to 2003, the transmission biology of Phytophthora ramorum, the causal agent of sudden oak death, was studied in mixedevergreen forest, a common forest type in northern, coastal California. Investigation of the sources of spore production focused on coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) and bay laurel (Umbellularia californica), dominant hosts that comprised 39.7 and 46.2% of the individuals at the study site, respectively. All tests for inoculum production from the surface of infected coast live oak bark or exudates from cankers were negative. In contrast, sporangia and chlamydospores were produced on the surface of infected bay laurel leaves. Mean number of zoospores produced from infected bay laurel leaves under natural field conditions during rainstorms was 1,173.0 ± SE 301.48, and ranged as high as 5,200 spores/leaf. P. ramorum was recovered from rainwater, soil, litter, and streamwater during the mid- to late rainy season in all 3 years of the study. P. ramorum was not recovered from sporadic summer rains or soil and litter during the hot, dry summer months. Concentrations of inoculum in rainwater varied significantly from year to year and increased as the rainy season progressed for the two complete seasons that were studied. Potential dispersal distances were investigated for rainwater, soil, and streamwater. In rainwater, inoculum moved 5 and 10 m from the inoculum source. For soil, transmission of inoculum was demonstrated from infested soil to bay laurel green leaf litter, and from bay laurel green leaf litter to aerial leaves of bay laurel seedlings. One-third to one-half of the hikers tested at the study site during the rainy season also were carrying infested soil on their shoes. In streamwater, P. ramorum was recovered from an unforested site in pasture ≈ 1 km downstream of forest with inoculum sources. In total, these studies provide details on the production and spread of P. ramorum inoculum in mixed-evergreen forest to aid forecasting and managing disease transmission of this environmentally destructive pathogen.