Increasing human impacts on forests, including unintentional movement of pathogens, climate change, and large-scale intensive plantations, are associated with an unprecedented rate of new diseases. An evolutionary ecology perspective can help address these challenges and provide direction for sustainable forest management.
Forest pathology has historically relied on an ecological approach to understand and address the practical management of forest diseases. A widening of this perspective to include evolutionary considerations has been increasingly developed in response to the rising rates of genetic change in both pathogen populations and tree populations due to human activities. Here, five topics for which the evolutionary perspective is especially relevant are highlighted. The first relates to the evolutionary diversity of fungi and fungal-like organisms, with issues linked to the identification of species and their ecological niches. The second theme deals with the evolutionary processes that allow forest pathogens to adapt to new hosts after introductions or to become more virulent in homogeneous plantations. The third theme presents issues linked to disease resistance in tree breeding programs (e.g., growth-defense trade-offs) and proposes new criteria and methods for more durable resistance. The last two themes are dedicated to the biotic environment of the tree–pathogen system, namely, hyperparasites and tree microbiota, as possible solutions for health management. We conclude by highlighting three major conceptual advances brought by evolutionary biology, i.e., that (i) “not everything is everywhere”, (ii) evolution of pathogen populations can occur on short time scales, and (iii) the tree is a multitrophic community. We further translate these into a framework for immediate policy recommendations and future directions for research.
Desprez-Loustau M-L, Aguayo J, Dutech C, Hayden K, Husson C, Jakushkin B, Marçais B, Piou D, Robin C, Vacher C 2015. An evolutionary ecology perspective to address forest pathology challenges of today and tomorrow. Ann. For. Sci.: 1-23. 10.1007/s13595-015-0487-4.
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