Effects of biodiversity on the transmission of foliar fungal pathogens in the German tree diversity experiment BIOTREE

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Current theory on transmission rates of plant pathogens predicts a strong influence of host diversity on the degree of infection. We tested this prediction for foliar fungal pathogens on forest tree species, making use of the BIOTREE tree diversity experiment in Germany. We hypothesized that fungal species diversity was positively and fungal pathogen load negatively related to tree species diversity. We conducted analyses at three hierarchical levels, at the plot level, the level of single tree species, and the level of individual fungus species. We found strong tree species identity effects at the plot level as the presence of Quercus petraea resulted in a high pathogen load. There was a negative effect of tree diversity on the pathogen load of common powdery mildew species. Thus, for the first time we experimentally showed that disease risk and pathogen transmission in forest tree species depends on tree diversity.

Helge Bruelheide - Resource Concentration Hypothesis

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