Forest Decline Triggered by Phloem Parasitism-Related Biotic Factors in Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis)

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Title: Forest Decline Triggered by Phloem Parasitism-Related Biotic Factors in Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis)
Authors: Morcillo Juliá, Luna | Gallego, Diego | González, Eudaldo | Vilagrosa, Alberto
Research Group/s: Gestión de Ecosistemas y de la Biodiversidad (GEB)
Center, Department or Service: Universidad de Alicante. Departamento de Ecología
Keywords: Climate change | Drought | Forest decline | Phloem disease | Phytoplasma | Tree growth | Tree mortality | Triggering factors
Knowledge Area: Ecología
Issue Date: 24-Jul-2019
Publisher: MDPI
Citation: Morcillo L, Gallego D, González E, Vilagrosa A. Forest Decline Triggered by Phloem Parasitism-Related Biotic Factors in Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis). Forests. 2019; 10(8):608. doi:10.3390/f10080608
Abstract: Climate models predict increasing mean temperatures and reduced precipitation for Mediterranean ecosystems already subjected to major hydrological fluctuations. Forest decline phenomena relate extreme droughts or heat waves with other organisms, e.g., insects or microorganisms acting as pests, but their role needs to be elucidated. A biotic factor responsible for forest diseases is Candidatus Phytoplasma pini which is a phloem-parasitism that negatively affects Spanish pine forests in drought-prone areas. In several healthy and declining Aleppo pine stands, we monitored pine infection by PCR (Polimerase Chain Reation), determined the tree phloem tissue terpene composition, carbohydrate content, measured several relevant morpho-physiological variables and examined trees affected by bark beetles. PCR confirmed C. P. pini infection was widespread in all stands, regardless of to the presence of symptomatically affected trees. However, visible symptomatic decline only occurred in trees living under more stressful conditions. The terpene composition of pines in declining stands differed from those in healthy ones, and could be related with bark beetle attacks when pines were previously weakened by the phytoplasma disease. Our results indicate that biotic factors, such as C. P. pini, affecting phloem tissue may be triggering factors for drought-mediated forest decline and suggest that phloem diseases can play a key role in forest declining processes during extreme drought.
Sponsor: This research was funded by Sección de Defensa Fitosanitaria (Conservación del Medio Natural, Consejeria de Medio Ambiente, Comunidad de Madrid) and the Survive-2 project (CGL2015-69773-C2-2-P MINECO/FEDER) from the Spanish Government. The CEAM Foundation is supported by Generalitat Valenciana.
ISSN: 1999-4907
DOI: 10.3390/f10080608
Language: eng
Type: info:eu-repo/semantics/article
Rights: © 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (
Peer Review: si
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