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

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht GPM sees deadly tornadic storms moving through US Southeast
01.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Cyclic change within magma reservoirs significantly affects the explosivity of volcanic eruptions
30.11.2016 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>