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Tracing the role of human civilization in the globalization of plant pathogens

Formally Refereed
Authors: Alberto Santini, Andrew Liebhold, Duccio Migliorini, Steve Woodward
Year: 2018
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: The ISME Journal


Co-evolution between plants and parasites, including herbivores and pathogens, has arguably generated much of Earth’s biological diversity. Within an ecosystem, coevolution of plants and pathogens is a stepwise reciprocal evolutionary interaction: epidemics result in intense selection pressures on both host and pathogen populations, ultimately allowing long-term persistence and ecosystem stability. Historically, plants, and pathogens evolved in unique regional assemblages, largely isolated from other assemblages by geographical barriers. When barriers are broken, non-indigenous pathogenic organisms are introduced into new environments, potentially finding suitable hosts lacking resistance genes and environments favouring pathogenic behavior; this process may result in epidemics of newly emerging diseases. Biological invasions are tightly linked to human activities and have been a constant feature throughout human history. Several pathways enable pathogens to enter new environments, the great majority being human mediated.


Santini, Alberto; Liebhold, Andrew; Migliorini, Duccio; Woodward, Steve. 2018. Tracing the role of human civilization in the globalization of plant pathogens. The ISME Journal. 12(3): 647-652.