Previously unrecorded low-temperature Phytophthora species associated with Quercus decline in a Mediterranean forest in eastern Spain

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Forest Pathology, Volume 43, Issue 4, p.331–339 (2013)



Oak decline has been a serious problem in Europe since the beginning of the twentieth century. In south-west Spain, Quercus ilex and Q. suber are the main affected species, and their decline has been associated with Phytophthora cinnamomi. During the last 10 years, a severe decline of Q. ilex and Q. faginea accompanied by a significant decrease in the production of acorns affecting natural regeneration was observed in the eastern part of the Iberian Peninsula. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the possible involvement of Phytophthora spp. in the decline. A forest in the Natural Park ‘Carrascar de la Font Roja’ in Comunidad Valenciana (eastern Spain), which is dominated by Q. ilex and Q. faginea, was surveyed during 2010–2011. Symptomatic trees showed thinning and dieback of the crown, withering of leaves and death. An extensive loss of both lateral small woody roots and fine roots and callusing or open cankers on suberized roots were observed. Soil samples containing fine roots were baited using both Q. robur leaves and apple fruits. Six Phytophthora species were isolated: P. cryptogea, P. gonapodyides, P. megasperma, P. quercina, P. psychrophila and P. syringae. These are the first records of P. quercina and P. psychrophila on Q. faginea, of P. quercina in Spain and of P. psychrophila in mainland Spain. A soil infestation trial was conducted for 6 months under controlled conditions with 1-year-old seedlings of Q. ilex and Q. faginea. Phytophthora cinnamomi was included in the pathogenicity test for comparison. The results showed that Q. ilex seedlings were generally more susceptible to infection than Q. faginea with P. cinnamomi being the most aggressive pathogen to both oak species. The two most commonly isolated Phytophthora species, P. quercina and P. psychrophila, also proved their pathogenicity towards both Q. ilex and Q. faginea.


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