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Poster: Epidemiology: Climate Change


Discovery of biological drivers of pitch canker disease in a changing climate
T. QUESADA (1), T. Quesada (1), C. Staub (1), M. Marsik (1), K. Shin (1), K. Smith (2), J. Hughes (1) (1) University of Florida, U.S.A.; (2) US Forest Service / University of Florida, U.S.A.

Natural and agricultural ecosystems are affected by climate change through increased temperature, humidity, and unusual weather patterns. They are increasingly threatened by invasions by non-native pests and pathogens. The fungus Fusarium circinatum causes pitch canker disease in several pine species, leading to high economic losses in the timber industry. Favored by high temperatures and humidity, future outbreaks may become more frequent under predicted changes in environmental conditions over the next 50-100 years. A better understanding of F. circinatum biology is needed to inform predictions of which pathogen variants would likely cause outbreaks in future climate settings. We evaluated growth, spore production and germination among F. circinatum isolates cultured at various temperatures (25, 28, and 31°C). We also implemented spore trapping experiments in three north-Florida sites to survey spore release throughout the spring and summer, and to test if weather events trigger increased spore discharge. Results show significant temperature effects (p<0.05) in mycelium growth and sporulation among isolates. Though spore trapping experiments need to be followed across several growth seasons, we present preliminary trends on spore release in the environment. These results will constitute the baseline for future research on fungal diversity, spatial distribution patterns and disease prediction, aimed at mitigating adverse effects of climate change on forest health.