Author(s): Jnsson MT, Thor G
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Abstract At least 10\% of the world's tree species are threatened with extinction and pathogens are increasingly implicated in tree threats. Coextinction and threats to affiliates as a consequence of the loss or decline of their host trees is a poorly understood phenomenon. Ash dieback is an emerging infectious disease causing severe dieback of common ash Fraxinus excelsior throughout Europe. We utilized available empirical data on affiliate epiphytic lichen diversity (174 species and 17,800 observations) among 20 ash dieback infected host tree populations of F. excelsior on the island Gotland in the Baltic Sea, Sweden. From this, we used structured scenario projections scaled with empirical data of ash dieback disease to generate probabilistic models for estimating local and regional lichen coextinction risks. Average coextinction probabilities (Ā) were 0.38 (95\% CI ± 0.09) for lichens occurring on F. excelsior and 0.14 (95\% CI ± 0.03) when considering lichen persistence on all tree species. Ā was strongly linked to local disease incidence levels and generally increasing with lichen host specificity to F. excelsior and decreasing population size. Coextinctions reduced affiliate community viability, with significant local reductions in species richness and shifts in lichen species composition. Affiliates were projected to become locally extirpated before their hosts, illuminating the need to also consider host tree declines. Traditionally managed open wooded meadows had the highest incidence of ash dieback disease and significantly higher proportions of affiliate species projected to go extinct, compared with unmanaged closed forests and semi-open grazed sites. Most cothreatened species were not previously red-listed, which suggest that tree epidemics cause many unforeseen threats to species. Our analysis shows that epidemic tree deaths represent an insidious, mostly overlooked, threat to sessile affiliate communities in forested environments. Current conservation and management strategies must account for secondary extinctions associated with epidemic tree death.
This article was published in PLoS One
and referenced in Forest Research: Open Access