Review article

Ecological niche of plant pathogens

Ecaterina Fodor

Ecaterina Fodor
University of Oradea, Faculty of Environmental Protection, Forestry Department. Email: ecaterina.fodor@gmail.com

Online First: February 03, 2011
Fodor, E. 2011. Ecological niche of plant pathogens. Annals of Forest Research 54(1): 3-21.


Disease ecology is a new approach to the understanding of the spread and dynamics of pathogens in natural and man-made environments. Defining and describing the ecological niche of the pathogens is one of the major tasks for ecological theory, as well as for practitioners preoccupied with the control and forecasting of established and emerging diseases. Niche theory has been periodically revised, not including in an explicit way the pathogens. However, many progresses have been achieved in niche modeling of disease spread, but few attempts were made to construct a theoretical frame for the ecological niche of pathogens. The paper is a review of the knowledge accumulated during last decades in the niche theory of pathogens and proposes an ecological approach in research. It quest for new control methods in what concerns forest plant pathogens, with a special emphasis on fungi like organisms of the genus Phytophthora. Species of Phytophthora are the most successful plant pathogens of the moment, affecting forest and agricultural systems worldwide, many of them being invasive alien organisms in many ecosystems. The hyperspace of their ecological niche is defined by hosts, environment and human interference, as main axes. To select most important variables within the hyperspace, is important the understanding of the complex role of pathogens in the ecosystems as well as for control programs. Biotic relationships within ecosystem of host-pathogen couple are depicted by ecological network and specific metrics attached to this. The star shaped network is characterized by few high degree nodes, by short path lengths and relatively low connectivity, premises for a rapid disturbance spread. 

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