New research shows the sudden oak death epidemic in California cannot now be stopped, but that its tremendous ecological and economic impacts could have been greatly reduced if control had been started earlier. The research also identifies new strategies to enhance control of future epidemics, including identifying where and how to fell trees, as “there will be a next time.”
Sudden oak death — caused by Phytophthora ramorum, a fungus-like pathogen related to potato blight — has killed millions of trees over hundreds of square kilometres of forest in California. First detected near San Francisco in 1995, it spread north through coastal California, devastating the region’s iconic oak and tanoak forests. In 2002 a strain of the pathogen appeared in the south west of England, affecting shrubs but not oaks, since English species of oak are not susceptible. In 2009 the UK strain started killing larch — an important tree crop — and has since spread widely across the UK.
In a study published in PNAS, researchers from the University of Cambridge have used mathematical modelling to show that stopping or even slowing the spread of Phytophthora ramorum in California is now not possible, and indeed has been impossible for a number of years.
Treating trees with chemicals is not practical or cost-effective on the scales that would be necessary for an established forest epidemic. Currently the only option for controlling the disease is to cut down infected trees, together with neighbouring trees that are likely to be infected but may not yet show symptoms. “By comparing the performance of a large number of potential strategies, modelling can tell us where and how to start chopping down trees to manage the disease over very large areas,” explains Nik Cunniffe, lead author from Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences.
The authors say that preventing the disease from spreading to large parts of California could have been possible if management had been started in 2002. Before 2002 not enough was known about the pathogen to begin managing the disease. Their modelling also offers new strategies for more effectively controlling inevitable future epidemics.
Models developed in Cambridge are already an integral part of the management programme for the Phytophthora ramorum epidemic in the UK. The models are used to predict where the disease is likely to spread, how it can be effectively detected and how control strategies can be optimised, in close liaison with colleagues from DEFRA and the Forestry Commission.
Sudden oak death is known to affect over one hundred species of tree and shrub, presenting a significant risk to the biodiversity of many ecosystems. The death of large numbers of trees also exacerbates the fire risk in California when fallen trees are left to dry out. There is now concern that the disease may spread to the Appalachian Mountains, putting an even larger area of trees at risk.
“Our study is the first major retrospective analysis of how the sudden oak death epidemic in California could have been managed, and also the first to show how to deal with a forest epidemic of this magnitude,” explains Cunniffe.
“Even if huge amounts of money were to be invested to stop the epidemic starting today, the results of our model show this cannot lead to successful control for any plausible management budget. We therefore wanted to know whether it could have been contained if a carefully-optimised strategy had been introduced sooner. Our model showed that, with a very high level of investment starting in 2002, the disease could not have been eradicated, but its spread could have been slowed and the area affected greatly reduced.”
The model also indicates how policymakers might better plan and deploy control when future epidemics emerge.
“It is a tool by which we can make a better job next time, because it is inevitable that there will be a next time,” says Chris Gilligan, senior author also from the Department of Plant Sciences. “With this sort of epidemic there will always be more sites to treat than can be afforded. Our model shows when and where control is most effective at different stages throughout a developing epidemic so that resources can be better targeted.”
“It can be tempting for authorities to start cutting down trees at the core of the infected area, but for this epidemic our research shows that this could be the worst thing to do, because susceptible vegetation will simply grow back and become infected again,” explains Cunniffe.
Cunniffe, Gilligan and colleagues found that instead treating the ‘wave-front’ — on and ahead of the epidemic in the direction that disease is spreading — is a more effective method of control. They also found that ‘front-loading’ the budget to treat very heavily early on in the epidemic would greatly improve the likelihood of success.
“Unlike other epidemic models, ours takes account of the uncertainty in how ecological systems will respond and how the available budget may change, allowing us to investigate the likelihood of success and risks of failure of different strategies at different points after an epidemic emerges,” says Gilligan.
“Whenever a new epidemic emerges, controlling it becomes a question of how long it takes for us to have enough information to recognise that there is a problem and then to make decisions about how to deal with it. In the past we have been starting from scratch with each new pathogen, but the insight generated by this modelling puts us in a better position for dealing with future epidemics,” he adds.
The researchers say that the next step in dealing with well-established epidemics such as sudden oak death is to investigate how to protect particularly valuable areas within an epidemic that — as they have demonstrated — is already too big to be stopped.
The methodology is already being applied to create related models for diseases that threaten food security in Africa, such as pathogens that attack wheat and cassava.
Renters in Los Angeles and San Francisco are Paying $1200 a Month for a Bunk Bed in a Shared Space
Would you pay $1200 a month for a bunk bed in a shared space? Renters in Los Angeles and San Francisco are opting for pods in communal home with a desk, locker and personal TV
With the cost of rent continuing to rise, some Americans are taking unusual measures to find a place to sleep.
PodShare, which provides 10 to 15 co-ed bunkbeds in six locations across California, is hoping to help solve the affordable housing crisis.
The beds can be rented from $35 to $50 a night, which amounts to between $1,050 and $1500 for one month.
It’s no secret that housing prices have rapidly spiked over the last decade and incomes have not kept up
One 2018 study published found that only about one-third of millennials currently own homes.
This is fewer than the number of Generation Xers and baby boomers who owned homes when they were the same age.
And a study conducted by Harvard University this year found that one-in-three Americans can’t afford to pay rent.
It’s unsurprising considering that, in cities such as San Francisco, the average rent for an apartment is about $3,900.
But for $1,200, if you rent with PodShare everyone gets a bed that turns into a desk, individual power outlets, a locker, a shelf and a personal TV.
Each location also provides a communal living room, food such as cereal, toiletries such as toilet paper, laundry machines and WiFi access, reported CNN.
Tenants are known as ‘pod-estrians’.
Although the set-up may seem like an adult dormitory or a hostel, the company uses the term ‘co-living’.
‘PodShare makes life more affordable because there is no security deposit or cost of furnishings and we provide flexible living,’ co-founder Elvina Beck told Vice in 2016.
‘Pod life is the future for singles which are not looking to settle down, but focus on their startups and experience something new.’
There are no curtains to close off the beds, and the only doors are to the bathroom, reported Time Out Los Angeles.
Although there’s no privacy, pod-residents are willing to exchange that for affordability or a reduced travel time to work.
Beck, 34, told CNN that she founded the company in 2012 because she wanted to meet new people and provide housing security to others.
‘Maybe they don’t have two months’ rent to put down or they don’t have proof of income,’ she said.
‘Whether it’s from a divorce or their family kicked them out for being gay or because they’re in a different country or a different city.’
She told CNN that, when she began PodShare, most residents were between ages 24 and 30. Today, however, most ‘tenants’ are in their late 20s or early 30s.
Additionally, many of the early residents were young adults who had just moved to a new city. But many new residents are older adults and even those traveling on business.
However, there some rules that people are required to follow. Lights have to be off by 10pm, no guests are allowed and tenants can’t have sex.
‘You can’t invite any friends over,’ Beck told CNN. ‘Sorry. Just make new ones here.’
Caretaker Ties a Wheelchair-Bound Pensioner to a Tree by The Neck
Shocking footage of a wheelchair-bound pensioner being tied to a tree by the neck by a caretaker has sparked controversy in China.
The caretaker claimed to have no other way but to bind her frail client with a rope because she had to rush back home to deal with family emergency.
Furious onlookers demanded the caretaker free the pensioner immediately. The domestic worker defended her act by calling the incident ‘no big deal’.
The pensioner appeared extremely distressed throughout the video and could not speak clearly.
One angry male passer-by accused the caretaker: ‘How would you feel if your daughter treated you like this?’
He criticised the caretaker and said she should bring the pensioner with her.
The caretaker replied: ‘[If I had] pushed her back, she would tell [on me].’
Another female bystander pointed out that the pensioner neck had turned red because of the rough treatment.
After being lambasted by eyewitnesses, the caretaker untied the pensioner and pushed her away.
Authority said the clip had been uploaded onto the social media by residents in a neighbourhood called Nanyuan on the outskirts of southern Beijing.
But they had not been able to identify the exact location of the incident or track down the individuals involved.
Police have been alerted of the video and launched an investigation, according to Beijing Evening News.
Comforting Shelter Dogs During Fireworks Is The New Independence Day Tradition
“Calming the Canines,” at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC), is a new Independence Day tradition.
Last year, over 300 people from the community showed up at the shelter’s two locations around Phoenix, Arizona.
It was overwhelming to see how the community responded. It really helped spread our message that MCACC is here to help.
Amy Engel, who attended Calming the Canines last year said that she definitely plans on attending this year, too.
Engel wrote about her experience last year
Some people sang to them, some people read to them, some people just sat there and gave treats! It was so, so awesome because the dogs absolutely love the attention and were focused on the people and not the fireworks going on outside.
Many participants developed lasting relationships with the shelter, returning to provide foster care, adopt a pet or volunteer.
The shelter suggests people to bring blankets to sit on, or folding chairs, and to let the dog or cat approach them to sit calmly and quietly.
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