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Research Seminar - Centre for Crop Health

Range Expansion of Phytophthora Species, in Particular P. cinnamomi, Into Colder Environments: Adaptation, a Changing Climate or Both?

Date: 29 June 2020
Time: 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Venue: Online
Contact: For more information, please contact the Centre for Crop Health.
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Alpine and subalpine regions were long considered free of Phytophthora species, especially Phytophthora cinnamomi due to restrictions on their growth at low temperatures. However, recent surveys conducted in these areas resulted in the detection of 24 Phytophthora species, including P. cinnamomi at elevations as high as 2100 m. This suggested that either environmental conditions at higher elevations have changed, or P. cinnamomi has adapted to cold conditions.
The potential implications of this important discovery for these critical ecosystems were explored by (1) determining the extent of invasion of Australian mountains by Phytophthora species; (2) examining the adaptive capability of P. cinnamomi; and (3) comparing Phytophthora species’ richness, composition and distribution with those of vascular plants species at elevation range 410–2125 m. Surveys resulted in the isolation of a diverse Phytophthora community, including two new species that have been formally described. Phytophthora cinnamomi was shown to exhibit phenotypic plasticity and rapidly adapt to cold environments. Phytophthora species had higher elevation ranges than vascular plants and were found to be habitat generalists. Vascular plant species were mostly habitat specialists, being confined to particular environments. The generalist nature of Phytophthora species makes them difficult to manage because, once introduced, they spread rapidly across elevation and disturbance gradients.