Promise and Pitfalls of Endemic Resistance for Cultural Resources Threatened by Phytophthora ramorum

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Phytopathology, Volume 109, Issue 5, p.760 - 769 (2019)



Invasive forest pathogens can harm cultural, economic, and ecological resources. Here, we demonstrate the potential of endemic tree pathogen resistance in forest disease management using Phytophthora ramorum, cause of sudden oak death, in the context of management of tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus), an ecologically unique and highly valued tree within Native American communities of northern California and southern Oregon in the United States. We surveyed resistance to P. ramorum on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation and Yurok Indian Reservation in a set of study sites with variable management intensities. Variation in resistance was found at all sites with similar mean and variation across stands, and resistance tended to have a random spatial distribution within stands but was not associated with previous stand management (thinning or prescribed fire) or structural characteristics such as tree density, basal area, or pairwise relatedness among study trees. These results did not suggest host, genetic, management, or environment interactions that could be easily leveraged into treatments to increase the prevalence of resistant trees. We applied epidemiological models to assess the potential application of endemic resistance in this system and to examine our assumption that in planta differences in lesion size—our measure of resistance—reflect linkages between mortality and transmission (resistance) versus reduced mortality with no change in transmission (tolerance). This assumption strongly influenced infection dynamics but changes in host populations—our conservation focus—was dependent on community-level variation in transmission. For P. ramorum, slowing mortality rates (whether by resistance or tolerance) conserves host resources when a second source of inoculum is present; these results are likely generalizable to pathogens with a broader host range. However, when the focal host is the sole source of inoculum, increasing tolerant individuals led to the greatest stand-level pathogen accumulation in our model. When seeking to use variation in mortality rates to affect conservation strategies, it is important to understand how these traits are linked with transmission because tolerance will be more useful for management in mixed-host stands that are already invaded, compared with single-host stands with low or no pathogen presence, where resistance will have the greatest conservation benefits.