Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Climate change impact on the population dynamics of exotic pathogens: the case of the worldwide pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi.

Abstract

Worldwide, Mediterranean-climate type forests are seriously threatened by climate change and Phytophthora cinnamomi, an extremely aggressive soilborne pathogen listed among the 100 worst invasive alien species. This study examines for first time the effects of annual and seasonal changes in temperature and rainfall under different climatic scenarios on P. cinnamomi dynamics in a Mediterranean forest naturally infested. We followed seasonally and during four years (2016-2020) P. cinnamomi abundance in the soil taking advantage of a climate change infrastructure that simulates a 30% rainfall reduction using rainout shelters and an increase in soil temperature using open top chambers. Seasonal abundance of P. cinnamomi was strongly linked to spring precipitation: the large inoculum density during this season suffered a strong decrease during the dry summer that was maintained until the next spring, despite of fall rains. Thus, inoculum density in spring may be considered the best indicator of the potential of P. cinnamomi infection in natural ecosystems. The two climatic treatments had significant effects on P. cinnamomi abundance, but only in some combinations of seasons and years. Rainfall exclusion had a negative effect on the spring abundance of P. cinnamomi mostly in wet years, causing a reduction as large as 30% in comparison with the control treatment. Meanwhile, warming effect varied from slightly negative in winter to positive in spring and early summer, causing increases as large as 31% in comparison with the control treatment. Overall, we provide novel experimental evidence suggesting that a drier climate might limit the abundance and activity of P. cinnamomi in water-limited forests, but that this negative effect might be at least partly counteracted by the positive effects of warming. These results also imply that P. cinnamomi represents an increasing threat under climate change for the conservation of forest ecosystems where water is not a limiting factor.