Forestry in South Africa
Tuesday, August 16, 2022

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FABI Articles : The unified framework for biological invasions: a forest fungal pathogen perspective

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The unified framework for biological invasions: a forest fungal pathogen perspective



Michael J. Wingfield, Bernard Slippers, Brenda D. Wingfield, Irene BarnesEmail author


Biological invasions in forests are growing in number and importance globally. The best studied examples are those caused by plants and animals, including insects. In contrast, forest invasions caused by microbes, including fungi, have received much lower levels of attention, particularly in the invasion biology literature. This can at least to some extent be due to the large number of these organisms involved and the fact that the majority of these have yet to be discovered and described. This is equally true for tree-infecting fungi, many of which are devastating pathogens responsible for dramatic invasions in natural and planted forests. This situation is changing through the application of molecular genetic tools that make it possible to accurately identify fungal tree pathogens, to determine their origins, pathways of movement, their modes of reproduction and change; all of which can influence invasions. The role and relevance of symbioses between tree pathogens and insects in forest invasions is also gaining increased attention. So too is our understanding that trees live in close association with large numbers of microbes that make up their holobiome. This has substantial relevance to invasion biology (Zenni et al. 2017). This commentary highlights four emerging issues that need to be considered regarding the invasions by fungal pathogens of trees and it emphasizes opportunities to better understand their relevance and impacts on natural and planted forests. A call is also made for plant pathologists to work more closely with ecologists such that fungal pathogens become more commonly integrated into invasion biology programmes.

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