Differential impacts of virus diversity on biomass production of a native and an exotic grass host.
Pathogens are common and diverse in natural communities and have been implicated in the success of host invasions. Yet few studies have experimentally measured how pathogens impact native versus exotic hosts, particularly when individual hosts are simultaneously coinfected by diverse pathogens. To estimate effects of interactions among multiple pathogens within host individuals on both transmission of pathogens and fitness consequences for hosts, we conducted a greenhouse experiment using California grassland species: the native perennial grass Nassella (Stipa) pulchra, the exotic annual grass Bromus hordeaceus, and three virus species, Barley yellow dwarf virus-PAV, Barley yellow dwarf virus-MAV, and Cereal yellow dwarf virus-RPV. In terms of virus transmission, the native host was less susceptible than the exotic host to MAV. Coinfection of PAV and MAV did not occur in any of the 157 co-inoculated native host plants. In the exotic host, PAV infection most strongly reduced root and shoot biomass, and coinfections that included PAV severely reduced biomass. Infection with single or multiple viruses did not affect biomass in the native host. However, in this species the most potentially pathogenic coinfections (PAV+MAV and PAV+MAV+RPV) did not occur. Together, these results suggest that interactions among multiple pathogens can have important consequences for host health, which may not be predictable from interactions between hosts and individual pathogens. This work addresses a key empirical gap in understanding the impact of multiple generalist pathogens on competing host species, with potential implications for population and community dynamics of native and exotic species. It also demonstrates how pathogens with relatively mild impacts independently can more substantially reduce host performance in coinfection.