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Keywords:

  • Big Sur;
  • interacting disturbances;
  • invasive forest pathogen;
  • Phytophthora ramorum ;
  • sudden oak death (SOD);
  • Umbellularia californica ;
  • wildfire

Summary

  • The first wildfires in sudden oak death-impacted forests occurred in 2008 in the Big Sur region of California, creating the rare opportunity to study the interaction between an invasive forest pathogen and a historically recurring disturbance.
  • To determine whether and how the sudden oak death pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum, survived the wildfires, we completed intensive vegetation-based surveys in forest plots that were known to be infested before the wildfires. We then used 24 plot-based variables as predictors of P. ramorum recovery following the wildfires.
  • The likelihood of recovering P. ramorum from burned plots was lower than in unburned plots both 1 and 2 yr following the fires. Post-fire recovery of P. ramorum in burned plots was positively correlated with the number of pre-fire symptomatic California bay laurel (Umbellularia californica), the key sporulating host for this pathogen, and negatively correlated with post-fire bay laurel mortality levels.
  • Patchy burn patterns that left green, P. ramorum-infected bay laurel amidst the charred landscape may have allowed these trees to serve as inoculum reservoirs that could lead to the infection of newly sprouting vegetation, further highlighting the importance of bay laurel in the sudden oak death disease cycle.