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Diversity and distribution of Phytophthora species in Protected Natural Areas of Sicily, southern Italy

Federico La Spada: Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, University of Catania

<div>Sicily, southern Italy, is located in the centre of the Mediterranean basin, one of the most important biodiversity hotspot areas. Numerous Protected Natural Areas (PNAs) have been established in the island for preserving its ecological integrity. The aim of this study was to investigate the occurrence and diversity of <em>Phytophthora</em> species in PNAs of Sicily and to explore if, and to which extent, diversity correlates with vegetation type(s). Twenty-nine natural ecosystems (15 forest stands and 14 riparian systems) from 12 PNAs were surveyed. <em>Phytophthora </em>species were isolated by baiting and isolates were identified by combining macro- and micro-morphological features with phylogenetic inference (ITS-rDNA sequence analysis). Overall, 18 <em>Phytophthora</em> species from eight of the 12 known phylogenetic clades were recovered. These included the two newly described <em>P. tyrrhenica</em> and <em>P. vulcanica</em>, and 11 among the most aggressive introduced species, including <em>P. × cambivora</em>, <em>P. cactorum</em>, <em>P. citrophthora</em>, <em>P. crassamura</em>, <em>P. hydropathica</em>, <em>P. multivora</em>, <em>P. plurivora</em>, <em>P. polonica</em>, <em>P. pseudocryptogea</em>, <em>P. thermophila</em> and <em>P.</em> sp. kelmania. The distribution of <em>Phytophthora</em> species in different ecosystems and its ecological implications are discussed.</div>

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