Tracing the role of human civilization in the globalization of plant pathogens


Co-evolution between plants and parasites, including herbivores and pathogens, has arguably generated much of Earth’s biological diversity. Within an ecosystem, coevolution of plants and pathogens is a stepwise reciprocal evolutionary interaction: epidemics result in intense selection pressures on both host and pathogen populations, ultimately allowing long-term persistence and ecosystem stability. Historically, plants, and pathogens evolved in unique regional assemblages, largely isolated from other assemblages by geographical barriers. When barriers are broken, non-indigenous pathogenic organisms are introduced into new environments, potentially finding suitable hosts lacking resistance genes and environments favouring pathogenic behavior; this process may result in epidemics of newly emerging diseases. Biological invasions are tightly linked to human activities and have been a constant feature throughout human history. Several pathways enable pathogens to enter new environments, the great majority being human mediated.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Alberto Santini, Institute of Sustainable Plant Protection
Andrew M. Liebhold
Duccio Migliorini
Steve Woodward
The ISME Journal