A Multiscale Approach to Plant Disease Using the Metacommunity Concept.

Plant disease arises from the interaction of processes occurring at multiple spatial and temporal scales. With new tools such as next-generation sequencing, we are learning about the diversity of microbes circulating within and among plant populations and often coinhabiting host individuals. The proliferation of pathogenic microbes depends on single-species dynamics and multispecies interactions occurring within and among host cells, the spatial organization and genetic landscape of hosts, the frequency and mode of transmission among hosts and host populations, and the abiotic environmental context. Here, we examine empirical evidence from these multiple scales to assess the utility of metacommunity theory, a theoretical framework developed for free-living organisms to further our understanding of and assist in predicting plant-pathogen infection and spread. We suggest that deeper understanding of disease dynamics can arise through the application of this conceptual framework at scales ranging from individual cells to landscapes. In addition, we use this multiscale theoretical perspective to synthesize existing knowledge, generate novel hypotheses, and point toward promising future opportunities for the study of plant pathogens in natural populations. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Phytopathology Volume 54 is August 04, 2016. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/catalog/pubdates.aspx for revised estimates.

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