Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Earth Day: Disease spread among species is predictable

24.04.2015

Study in California grassland expands understanding of biodiversity and management of emerging diseases

On Earth Day, a study of disease dynamics in a California grassland has revealed fundamental principles underlying the spread of pathogens, or disease-causing microbes, among species.


Wild radishes are surrounded by abundant diseased grasses.

Credit: Bruce Lyon

The results, announced today in the journal Nature, have implications for the maintenance of biodiversity and for addressing practical problems related to plant disease.

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, studied the phenomenon of "pathogen spillover" in grassland species on the UC Santa Cruz campus.

They found that the amount of disease present on each species could be predicted by the abundance of its close relatives in the grassland. When there were many individuals of the same or similar species living close together, pathogens spread more quickly.

Perhaps unexpectedly, that in turn promotes biodiversity by creating openings for less common species that are not attacked by these same pathogens.

Link between community structure and individual disease vulnerability

The findings reveal a tight link between the structure of a plant community and the vulnerability of individual species to disease.

"These scientists demonstrate that the relatedness of species in communities is an important predictor of disease prevalence," said Alan Tessier, acting director of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.

The researchers were able to predict which plant species introduced into the grassland would be most strongly affected by naturally-occurring diseases.

Ingrid Parker, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at UC Santa Cruz and first author of the paper, said the study adds an important new dimension to a longstanding concept in ecology known as the "rare species advantage."

Diseases take greater toll on common species

"The rare species advantage is thought to be a major driver of biodiversity in natural ecosystems," Parker said. "Most pathogens are not host specialists--they can easily move from one species to another. Whether pathogens 'spill over' depends on how closely related other species nearby are.

"Our study shows that it's the structure of the whole community around a species that affects its vulnerability to disease."

Large-scale experiment with 44 plant species

In a large-scale experiment, the researchers introduced 44 plant species from outside California. (The plants were removed before they reproduced.)

The biologists found that species with few close relatives in the grassland escaped disease, while those closely related to many resident species always showed high levels of disease.

The researchers were able to make surprisingly accurate predictions of disease in introduced species based on their phylogenetic, or evolutionary, distance from local species.

"It was kind of shocking how well we were able to predict disease at a local scale," Parker said.

Modeling "PhyloSusceptibility"

To incorporate the phylogenetic distance between species into their predictions of disease dynamics, the researchers used a "PhyloSusceptibility model" developed by scientist Gregory Gilbert at UC Santa Cruz and two other paper co-authors, Roger Magarey and Karl Suiter of North Carolina State University, who work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The model is based on USDA's global database of fungal pathogens and host plants, and can be used to predict the probability of two species sharing a pathogen.

"If a plant pathogen from Brazil suddenly shows up in southern California, you want to know what plants in California are most likely to be attacked," Gilbert said.

By showing that the PhyloSusceptibility model makes accurate predictions, the results suggest a range of potential applications.

The PhyloSusceptibility model could help avoid disease problems affecting proposed horticultural imports or reforestation projects.

It could also be used in agriculture to design intercropping or rotation systems to decrease crop disease.

Vulnerability of local species to "pathogen spillover"

Imported plants can bring new pathogens and pests into an area. The PhyloSusceptibility model could be used to assess the vulnerability of local species to pathogen spillover from such plant introductions, the scientists say.

While the PhyloSusceptibility model used in this study was based on data for fungal pathogens, Gilbert said the team has also created versions based on data for eight other groups of pests and pathogens, including insects, nematodes, bacteria and viruses.

###

In addition to Parker, Gilbert, Magarey and Suiter, the co-authors of the study include UC Santa Cruz researchers Megan Saunders, Megan Bontrager, Andrew Weitz and Rebecca Hendricks.

USDA also funded the work.

-NSF-

Media Contact

Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734

 @NSF

http://www.nsf.gov 

Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Disease Earth Day fungal pathogens pathogens phylogenetic plant species species

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New insights into the world of trypanosomes

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

New Test for Rare Immunodeficiency

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may fight infectious disease

22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>