Folia Geobotanica

, Volume 40, Issue 2–3, pp 205–216 | Cite as

Effects of climate change on parasitic plants: the root hemiparasiticOrobanchaceae

  • Gareth K. Phoenix
  • Malcolm C. Press


Climate change may affect hemisparasiticOrobanchaceae (ex-Scrophulariaceae) both directly through impacts on hemiparasite physiology and indirectly through impacts on host plants. This dual action suggests particular sensitivity of the parasite to climate change and any associated impacts on hosts and other members of the community. While little research has addressed the responses of parasitic plants to climate change in natural environments, impacts are predicted from controlled environment studies together with a knowledge of the key ecophysiological traits of hemiparasiticOrobanchaceae, in particular ofStriga species, which are important weeds in semi-arid tropical agro-ecosystems, andRhinanthus species, which can be important components of (principally) grassland communities in the northern temperate zone. The main mode of important components of (principally) grassland communities in the northern temperate zone. The main mode of action of both elevated CO2 and warming will be through changes in photosynthesis and stomatal functioning. Enhanced photosynthesis of the hemiparasite and host will increase parasite carbon gains but may also increase the demand for host mineral nutrients. Mineral nutrition may, therefore, mediate the impacts of climate change on host-parasite associations. The relative insensitivity of hemiparasite stomata to elevated CO2 suggests that high stomatal conductances may be maintained and thus solute uptake may become limited by soil drying driven by higher rates of evapotranspiration and reduced precipitation. Climate change impacts on host-parasite interactions at the individual level will ultimately affect hemiparasite impacts at the community level. Community impacts will be greatest where climate change considerably favours hemiparasite populations or, conversely, causes them to disappear from communities where they were formerly abundant. Impacts will further be mediated by climate impacts on hosts, and the natural enemies of hosts and parasites alike. Further, the wide host range of many root hemiparasitic plants may facilitate migration of their populations through new communities under a changing climate.


Carbon dioxide Drought Global warming Host-hemiparasite interactions Precipitation Transpiration 


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Copyright information

© Institute of Botany 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gareth K. Phoenix
    • 1
  • Malcolm C. Press
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Animal and Plant SciencesUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUnited Kingdom

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