Environmental variation mediates the deleterious effects of Coleosporium ipomoeae on Ipomoea purpurea.
Variation in the environment is common within and between natural populations and may influence selection on plant resistance by altering the level of damage or the fitness consequences of damage from plant enemies. While much is known about how environmental variation influences the amount of damage a plant experiences, few studies have attempted to determine how variation in the environment may alter the fitness consequences of damage, particularly in plant-pathogen interactions. In this work we manipulated a rust pathogen, Coleosporium ipomoeae, in field experiments and showed that this pathogen reduced several components of fitness in its natural host plant, Ipomoea purpurea. Furthermore, we showed that the deleterious effects of C. ipomoeae were variable. We identified variation in the quality of a plant's microenvironment, the abundance of secondary enemy damage, and the length of a growing season as variable components of the environment that may influence the magnitude of damage and tolerance, causing the interaction between C. ipomoeae and I. purpurea to vary from parasitism to commensalism. Considering how environmental variation impacts the magnitude and negative fitness effects of pathogen damage is important to understanding spatially variable selection and coevolution in this and other plant-pathogen interactions.
Kniskern, JM; Rausher, MD
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