Empirical evidence suggests that biodiversity loss can increase disease transmission, yet our understanding of the 'diversity-disease hypothesis' for generalist pathogens in natural ecosystems is limited. We used a landscape epidemiological approach to examine two scenarios regarding diversity effects on the emerging plant pathogen Phytophthora ramorum across a broad, heterogeneous ecoregion: (1) an amplification effect exists where disease risk is greater in areas with higher plant diversity due to the pathogen's wide host range, or (2) a dilution effect where risk is reduced with increasing diversity due to lower competency of alternative hosts. We found evidence for pathogen dilution, whereby disease risk was lower in sites with higher species diversity, after accounting for potentially confounding effects of host density and landscape heterogeneity. Our results suggest that although nearly all plants in the ecosystem are hosts, alternative hosts may dilute disease transmission by competent hosts, thereby buffering forest health from infectious disease.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Forest species diversity reduces disease risk in a generalist plant pathogen invasion|
|Series title||Ecology Letters|
|Online Only (Y/N)||N|
|Additional Online Files (Y/N)||N|