New insights into the survival strategy of the invasive soilborne pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi in different natural ecosystems in Western Australia

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Forest Pathology, Volume 43, Issue 4, p.266–288 (2013)



Despite its importance as one of the most notorious, globally distributed, multihost plant pathogens, knowledge on the survival strategy of Phytophthora cinnamomi in seasonally dry climates is limited. Soil and fine roots were collected from the rhizosphere of severely declining or recently dead specimens of 13 woody species at 11 dieback sites and two dieback spots and from healthy specimens of five woody species at four dieback-free sites in native forests, woodlands and heathlands of the south-west of Western Australia (WA). Phytophthora cinnamomi was recovered from 80.4, 78.1 and 100% of tested soil, fine root and soil–debris slurry samples at the 11 dieback sites, in some cases even after 18-month storage under air-dry conditions, but not from the small dieback spots and the healthy sites. Direct isolations from soil–debris slurry showed that P. cinnamomi colonies exclusively originated from fine roots and root fragments not from free propa- gules in the soil. Microscopic investigation of P. cinnamomi-infected fine and small woody roots and root fragments demonstrated in 68.8, 81.3 and 93.8% of samples from nine woody species the presence of thick-walled oospores, stromata-like hyphal aggregations and intracellular hyphae encased by lignitubers, respectively, while thin-walled putative chlamydospores were found in only 21.2% of samples from five woody species. These findings were confirmed by microscopic examination of fine roots from artificially inoculated young trees of 10 woody species. It is suggested that (i) the main function of chlamydospores is the survival in moderately dry conditions between consecutive rain events and (ii) selfed oospores, hyphal aggregations, and encased hyphae and vesicles in infected root tissue of both host and non-host species are the major long-term survival propagules of P. cinnamomi during the extremely dry summer conditions in WA.