Combined effects of soil properties and Phytophthora cinnamomi infections on Quercus ilex decline
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The importance of soil properties as determinants of tree vitality and Phytophthora cinnamomi root infections was analysed.
The study comprised 96 declining stands in western Spain, where declining and non-declining holm oak (Quercus ilex L.) trees were sampled. Soil properties (soil depth, Ah horizon thickness, texture, pH, redox potential, soil bulk density and N-NH4 + and N-NO3 − concentrations) and P. cinnamomi infections were assessed.
Tree mortality rates increased with low soil bulk densities, which were also associated with more P. cinnamomi-infected trees. Occurrence of infected trees was higher in fine textured soils and in thick Ah horizons. Fine textured soils favoured trees, but with the presence of P. cinnamomi their health status deteriorated. Soil under declining trees had higher N-NO3 −/N-NH4 + ratio values than under non-declining trees. Additional soil properties changes associated to grazing were not related to decline and P. cinnamomi infections.
The implications of P. cinnamomi in holm oak decline and the influence of soil properties as contributors to pathogen activity were demonstrated. Fine soil textures and thick Ah horizons, usually favourable for vigour and vitality of trees growing in the Mediterranean climate, were shown to be disadvantageous soil properties if P. cinnamomi was present. Fine soil textures and thick Ah horizons are frequently related with higher levels of soil moisture, which increase the inoculum of the pathogen and favours root infection. Grazing does not seem to be directly linked to Q. ilex health status or P. cinnamomi root rot.
KeywordsSilvopastoral systems Soil compaction Nitrogen deposition Soil texture Root-rot disease Oak decline
The authors are grateful to María Vivas, Andrea Pérez, Luis Miguel Rodríguez, Rubén Sepúlveda and Elisa Moreno for their valuable assistance with some of the field measurements, to Dr. Jorge Martín-García for his help with data analysis, to Dr. Thomas Jung for encouragement and technical assistance (Olores Locos team), to Dr. Luis Sampedro (CIF Lourizán, Pontevedra) for a critical review of the manuscript, and to Jane McGrath for correcting the manuscript. Useful technical advice provided by Prof. João Santos Pereira and Prof. Nuno Cortez (Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Lisboa) was made possible through Acción Integrada hispano-lusa (funded by MEC-UE). The study was funded by Junta de Extremadura (IV-PRI regional project), the European Union and Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (AGL2011-30438-C02-02) and was performed within the framework of COST Action “Established and Emerging Phytophthora: Increasing Threats to Woodland and Forest Ecosystems in Europe” (FP0801).
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