Soil and Microbial EcologyForest pathogens and tree health

In progress


What is the relationship between pathogens and the microbiome in forests?

Project Summary

When given the proper environmental conditions and susceptible hosts, pathogens can do significant damage to forests. Forest pathogens are usually microscopic and include fungi, bacteria, viruses, and invertebrates. Because they are typically microscope, pathogens associate not just with the host organism such as the tree or plant species they affect, but with other microscopic organisms that live on plant surfaces. These microorganisms that live on leaves, roots or in soil make up the forest microbiome, and can include bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that associate with these habitats. An understanding of how pathogens influence such microbiomes can help with treatment of the disease they cause. At HF&G, scientists are studying several different forest pathogens, including the nematode Litylenchus crenatae subsp. mccannii, which is necessary for beech leaf disease (BLD), and hemlock wooly adelgid. Our research is investigating the microbiome directly associated with these pathogens, as well as how these pathogens influence the plant and soil microbiome of their infected hosts.


American Beech, foliar nematode, microbiome, disease


Select Publications

  • Burke DJ, AJ Hoke, and J Koch. 2020. The emergence of beech leaf disease in Ohio: Probing the plant microbiome in search of the cause. Forest Pathology 50: e12579. DOI: 10.1111/efp.12579
  • Carta LK, ZA Handoo, S Li, M Kantor, G Bauchan, D McCann, CK Gabriel, Q Yu, S Reed, J Koch, D Martin, and DJ Burke. 2020. Beech leaf disease symptoms caused by newly recognized nematode subspecies Litylenchus crenatae mccannii (Anguinata) described from Fagus grandifolia in North America. Forest Pathology 50: e12580. DOI: 10.1111/efp.12580
  • Reed SE, S Greifenhagen, Q Yu, A Hoke, DJ Burke, LK Carta, ZA Handoo, MR Kantor, J Koch. 2020. Foliar nematode, Litylenchus crenatae ssp. mccannii, population dynamics in leaves and buds of beech leaf disease‐affected trees in Canada and the US. Forest Pathology 50: e12599. DOI: 10.1111/efp.12599

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