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Am J Bot. 2001 Apr;88(4):634-45.

Patterns of leaf-pathogen infection in the understory of a Mexican rain forest: incidence, spatiotemporal variation, and mechanisms of infection.

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Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Instituto de Ecología, UNAM, A.P. 70-275, Mexico 04510, D.F., Mexico.


This study assessed the levels of damage by leaf pathogens and their variability in terms of host species, space (four mature forest sites) and season of the year (dry and rainy), and the mechanisms of infection in the understory of the Los Tuxtlas tropical rain forest. Sixty-five percent of the species surveyed in the dry season (N = 49) and 64.9% of those surveyed in the rainy season (N = 57) were damaged by fungi. Leaf area damaged per plant, on average, was <1% (range: 0.25-20.52%). There was considerable variation in the degree of infection among species, but not among sites and seasons. The survey showed that 43% of the leaves were damaged by herbivores and pathogens concurrently, 16% showed damage by insect herbivory alone, and only 1.4% of the sampled leaves showed damage by pathogens alone. Pathogenicity assays experimentally confirmed that the predominant mechanism of fungal establishment was wounding, such as that caused by herbivory (or other similar sources), and only rarely did infection occur through direct contact (without wounds). The results revealed the omnipresence of leaf fungal infection, although with low damage per plant, and the importance of herbivorous insects in the facilitation of fungal infection in tropical understory plants.

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