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Phytophthora species repeatedly introduced in Northern California through restoration projects can spread into adjacent sites

Abstract

This study investigates whether Phytophthora species may have been repeatedly introduced in natural habitats through restoration projects. Six plant species across five research locations in three counties within the San Francisco Bay Area were tested for pathogen infection of stems, roots and for rhizosphere infestation at failing restoration sites. Where possible, the same hosts were evaluated in one neighboring un-restored site disturbed by the presence of culverts, drainages or trails that also intersected the restoration site, and in a naturally regenerated and undisturbed control site. Although native or endemic pathogens were isolated from all three types of sites, Phytophthora species were never isolated from control undisturbed sites. Statistical analyses confirmed that percentage of positive Phytophthora isolations was significantly higher in restoration sites and adjoining disturbed sites than in control sites. Presence of Phytophthora species was correlated with disease symptoms, plant death and lack of regeneration. Furthermore, six of eight Phytophthora species isolated in the field had previously been reported from plant production facilities providing stock for habitat restoration. To our knowledge, this is the first controlled survey linking the presence of entire Phytophthora species assemblages to failing restoration projects and to the plant production facilities that provide plant stock for restoration, while showing that Phytophthora species are absent in neighboring undisturbed sites. This study further proves that these pathogens are spreading from restoration sites through disturbance pathways.

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Acknowledgements

This work was done with funding support from the University Of California Division Of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and the US Forest Service. Personnel and additional resource support was from the Presidio Trust, the National Park Service, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. We thank contributors to the Project: Cameron Chee, Alison Forrestel, Lew Stringer, and John Doyle.

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The research was made possible thanks to a Grant to MG by the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR), Competitive Grants Program.

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MG and LS designed the study and co-wrote the paper. LS was responsible for the field work.

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Correspondence to Laura Lee Sims.

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Sims, L.L., Garbelotto, M. Phytophthora species repeatedly introduced in Northern California through restoration projects can spread into adjacent sites. Biol Invasions 23, 2173–2190 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-021-02496-6

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