© P. Beales 1997This disease illustrates well some of the characteristics of plant diseases in natural communities where man has little influence. It gives a hint of the roles that plant pathogens play in ecosystems, and why there needs to be a Biodiversity Action Plan to conserve even these disease causing organisms.
1) One species is more susceptible than the other.
2) Whilst many individual leaves on a tree may be infected and die, M. alphitoides alone is rarely a cause of tree death.
3) The hybrids show a complete range of susceptibility.
4) When hybrid acorns germinate they often form a monoculture of seedling oaks near the parent tree. Some become heavily diseased and die, whilst others (presumably with more resistance characteristics) live and grow to maturity.
5) Oak powdery mildew and its hosts are a good example of how hosts and pathogens can co-evolve over many millenia and remain in balance provided that there is an absence of interference from man.
Conservation of host and pathogen are necessary to preserve the total ecosystem. To eradicate the pathogen would lead to a series of unpredictable changes in the evolution of oaks and their ecosystem. RETURN TO APSnet FEATURE STORY