Detection, Diversity, and Population Dynamics of Waterborne Phytophthora ramorum Populations
Sudden oak death, the tree disease caused by Phytophthora ramorum, has significant environmental and economic impacts on natural forests on the U.S. west coast, plantations in the United Kingdom, and in the worldwide nursery trade. Stream baiting is vital for monitoring and early detection of the pathogen in high-risk areas and is performed routinely; however, little is known about the nature of water-borne P. ramorum populations. Two drainages in an infested California forest were monitored intensively using stream-baiting for 2 years between 2009 and 2011. Pathogen presence was determined both by isolation and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) from symptomatic bait leaves. Isolates were analyzed using simple sequence repeats to study population dynamics and genetic structure through time. Isolation was successful primarily only during spring conditions, while PCR extended the period of pathogen detection to most of the year. Water populations were extremely diverse, and changed between seasons and years. A few abundant genotypes dominated the water during conditions considered optimal for aerial populations, and matched those dominant in aerial populations. Temporal patterns of genotypic diversification and evenness were identical among aerial, soil, and water populations, indicating that all three substrates are part of the same epidemiological cycle, strongly influenced by rainfall and sporulation on leaves. However, there was structuring between substrates, likely arising due to reduced selection pressure in the water. Additionally, water populations showed wholesale mixing of genotypes without the evident spatial autocorrelation present in leaf and soil populations.