Many of California’s oak trees – and their unmistakable imprint on the state’s landscape – face possible annihilation in an anticipated scourge of Sudden Oak Death (SOD). In mid-May, the United States Forest Service underwent its annual aerial monitoring of SOD in Southern California and discovered approximately 150 patches of dead oak trees, according to Lisa Bell of the SOD monitoring program. Though the forest service is still awaiting test results to determine the definitive cause of these deaths, SOD – which is caused by a water mold – is most likely the culprit, particularly given this year’s late rain and warm temperatures. The disease was first discovered in California in 1995, when a large number of oaks began dying with a terrifying and mystifying fervor. After six years of monitoring the disease, the forest service has yet to find a cure. The best they can do is remove the infected plants and experiment with slashing and burning in hopes of slowing its proliferation. The disease has been reported as far south as five miles from San Luis Obispo and is inching ever closer to Santa Barbara.

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