, Volume 133, Issue 1, pp 101-116
Date: 23 Dec 2011

Impacts of exotic forest pathogens on Mediterranean ecosystems: four case studies

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Abstract

Mediterranean ecosystems are hotspots of biodiversity. Because of a coincidence of high species richness and human presence, Mediterranean biodiversity is particularly threatened by processes such as habitat degradation, fragmentation and loss, pollution, climate change and introduction of invasive species. Invasive tree pathogens are among the problematic exotic species of California, Chile, the Mediterranean, South Africa and Australia. In this review, we provide an update on a selection of non-native tree pathogens currently posing a threat in Mediterranean ecosystems. The impact of exotic forest pathogens range from large-scale tree and shrub mortality in native ecosystems (Phytophthora ramorum on the West Coast of the USA) to disruption of plantations of exotic (e.g., Seiridium cardinale on planted Monterey cypress in California, Fusarium circinatum on Monterey pine worldwide) and native trees (introduction of the North American Heterobasidion irregulare in stone pine woodland in Italy). Genetic analyses are instrumental in improving our understanding and management of these outbreaks. There is a need for more empirical data on how novel pathosystems are likely to develop under novel climates, as well as interdisciplinary collaborations among forest pathologists, theoretical modellers and climatologists. The magnitude of the observed effects of some exotic tree diseases makes it important to try and minimize the risk of the inadvertent movement of plant pathogens when planning assisted migration activities to enable plant species to cope with rapid climate change.