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'Pistachio Canker' Tree Fungus May Be Killing Acres Of Eucalyptus Trees In East Bay Hills

OAKLAND (KPIX) - Wildfire fuel is increasing at an alarming rate in one part of Alameda County. This weekend there is an increased concern of fire danger in the East Bay hills and as if that wasn't enough, scientists are examining eucalyptus trees to find out why acres of them are dying.

It started with Acacia trees seen dying last summer. Scientists suspect a new fungal pathogen called the Pistachio Canker which may have originated in Italy. Now Eucalyptus trees are suddenly dying and scientist are asking if the two events related.

Susan Frankel is a U.S. Forest Service researcher.

"We're trying to make sense it, really trying to get information and get a sense of distribution and intensity of the die back," said Frankel.

A healthy green eucalyptus is full of leaves but the infected trees are dead and dying. John Brega is an Oakland Adopt-A-Spot Volunteer for Joaquim Miller Park. He says the problem is enormous.

"There's probably a hundred acres of eucalyptus in this park alone that are sick and declining very fast," said Brega.

Combined with an unusually dry fall and a windy weekend, the next few days has residents on the alert for fire danger and it's not just about sick trees.

"The biggest danger, I think, is from the shrubs, the Coyote Brush and the French Broom", says Brega.

Researchers say they are not sure if the problem is fungus, lack of water. or both.

Frankel says, "At first, our attention was for the acacia but now, the problem does seem to be more widespread."

Samples collected by scientists are currently being examined at University of California at Davis and UC Berkeley.

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