Update on the 35-year expansion of the invasive root pathogen, Phytophthora lateralis, across a landscape of Port Orford cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana)

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Forest Pathology, p.165-168 (2014)




Port Orford cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) is endemic to northern California and southwestern Oregon and is considered a foundation species that plays critical roles in riparian areas and on nutrient-poor soils. Since 1952, a non-native, pathogenic oomycete (Phytophthora lateralis) has been spreading throughout the range of the cedar. Most spread occurs by vehicles carrying infested soil along gravel roads primarily used for timber harvest. In a previous study conducted in 1998 and 1999, Port Orford cedar and P. lateralis were censused in a 37-km2 study area and dendrochronology was used to reconstruct the history of pathogen invasion. That work, which represents the only detailed analysis of spread rates for P. lateralis, showed that the first successful invasion into the study area took place in 1977 and that 43% of the susceptible host sites (stream crossings) were infested by 1999. In the work presented here, all sites that were uninfested in 1999 were re-censused in 2012, extending the historical reconstruction of P. lateralis spread to 35 years. Two new infestations were initiated between 1999 and 2012, suggesting that the rate of spread of P. lateralis has slowed greatly. Between 1980 and 1989, the average number of new site infestations was 1.8 infestations per year, while between 1990 and 1999 the average was 0.4 infestations per year and between 2000 and 2009 the average was 0.2 infestations per year. Several potential explanations for the reduced number of new infestations are discussed.