Plant Ecology pp 257-299 | Cite as

Biotic Stress

  • Ernst-Detlef Schulze
  • Erwin Beck
  • Nina Buchmann
  • Stephan Clemens
  • Klaus Müller-Hohenstein
  • Michael Scherer-Lorenzen


This chapter explores the reasons why plants rarely succumb to pathogens or herbivores. Even though plants are constantly under attack from viruses, bacteria, fungi, oomycetes or nematodes, the occurrence of disease is the exception. Similarly, plant defences effectively limit the damage caused by chewing or sucking insects. After a discussion of pathogenicity determinants and preformed defences, this chapter describes a concept unifying the inducible local immune responses to non-adapted and adapted pathogens. Perception and signal transduction events are explored. Next, systemic resistance is explained—that is, the activation of defence mechanisms in tissues distant from the site of a pathogen attack. Also covered is gene silencing as a defence against phytopathogenic viruses. Like pathogen defences, herbivore defences are both constitutive and inducible. In addition, they can be not only direct but also indirect, meaning that the enemies of herbivores are attracted and recruited for defence by the plant. Recognition of herbivore attack and the ensuing chain of signalling events are described. Plant defences are often chemical—that is, based on complex mixtures of bioactive secondary metabolites. The synthesis of glucosinolates is elaborated on to illustrate how herbivory acts as a driver of genetic diversity. Finally, parasitic plants and allelopathy are discussed as two additional forms of biotic stress.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ernst-Detlef Schulze
    • 1
  • Erwin Beck
    • 2
  • Nina Buchmann
    • 3
  • Stephan Clemens
    • 2
  • Klaus Müller-Hohenstein
    • 4
  • Michael Scherer-Lorenzen
    • 5
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for BiogeochemistryJenaGermany
  2. 2.Department of Plant PhysiologyUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Systems ScienceETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  4. 4.Department of BiogeographyUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  5. 5.Chair of Geobotany, Faculty of BiologyUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany

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