This research identified areas of the eastern United States forests that may be at particular risk from Sudden Oak Death (SOD) if it becomes established in the region. The highest suitability for SOD occurs where there are both species at risk of serious infection and species that could spread SOD to new hosts. Background and Objectives:
SOD, caused by Phytophthora ramorum
, can cause serious damage to forests. Although SOD is not believed to exist in the wild in the eastern United States, the presence of potential P. ramorum
hosts in the area has led to questions about the potential for its establishment there. The present project expanded on previous efforts by examining both the possibility and potential consequences of P. ramorum
establishment based on the presence of suitable hosts. Materials and Methods:
We developed a map of the potential severity of tree loss that could result from a P. ramorum
establishment in the eastern United States as well as a habitat suitability index based on the density of P. ramorum
susceptible and spreader host species. We also implemented a connectivity analysis method for determining patches important to the spread of P. ramorum
in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Results:
The Ozarks and Appalachians both had a high potential severity of infection due to their high percentage of susceptible species, but the Appalachians had a higher overall level of risk due to the presence of more spreader tree species in the area. Connectivity analysis in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park identified patches likely to be particularly important to P. ramorum
Analysis of the presence of potential P. ramorum
hosts in the eastern United States identified suitable conditions for SOD establishment there, particularly in the Appalachians. Techniques developed in this research can identify critical areas for SOD spread at both landscape and regional scales.
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