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Spatial and ecological heterogeneity affects disease development in forests: disease disturbance interactions

Richard Cobb: Cal Poly State University

<div>Plant pathology has a long history of uncovering environmental drivers of disease emergence many of which have been integrated into research and management of human and zoonotic diseases. As plant pathology has advanced understanding and management of plant disease with the disease triangle familiar to pathologists, the field of landscape ecology has integrated analogous factors to understand the factors that shape, define, and alter large-scale systems. Advances in both fields has laid bare persistent problems in management of plant disease in open systems and revealed hidden drivers of landscape change: the interaction of broad spatial-scale events that drive or modify the components of the disease triangle, sometimes in surprising and unanticipated ways.</p> <p> </p> <p>We combine newly emerging theory and field study of disturbance interactions from landscape ecology with the traditional perspective and insights of plant pathology. Some theory-based progress linking these fields has been achieved over the last 10-20 years, but in the meantime, wildland tree diseases have been altered by other broad-scale disturbances such as climate change, fire, landuse, and insects. We examine the effects of sudden oak death on fire through changes in fuels, their flammability, decomposition rates, and extent of accumulation. We also examine interacting disturbances as disease drivers for several other forest diseases where empirical data is lacking, but where theory or epidemiological models suggest disturbance interactions almost certainly occur.</div>

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