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Incorporating climate change into pest risk models for forest pathogens: a role for cold stress in an era of global warming?

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Abstract

Climate change may alter the distribution and activity of native and alien pathogens that infect trees and, in severe cases, cause tree death. In this study, potential future changes in climate suitability are investigated for three forest pathogens that occur in western North America: the native Arceuthobium tsugense subsp tsugense, hemlock dwarf mistletoe, and two alien invasive species, Dothistroma septosporum, the cause of red band needle blight or Dothistroma needle blight, and Phytophthora ramorum, the cause of sudden oak death or ramorum blight. Specifically, the software CLIMEX is used to calculate Cold-Stress, Heat-Stress, and Dry-Stress indices for each pathogen in 98,224 grid cells in North America. Downscaled climate projections from the general circulation models CGCM1, CSIROMk2, and HadCM3 drive forecasts for 2020, 2050 and 2080. These climate projections are then analyzed to forecast shifts in the geographic extent of abiotic stresses that are severe enough to directly kill pathogen propagules and prevent year-round establishment of these pathogens. Cold stress currently has a major impact on climate suitability for all three pathogens; heat stress is likely to become more significant in the future. I forecast that the geographic extent of cold stress will decline from its current levels by a constant 5% (} 1%) of all grid cells in each 30-yr projection horizon for all three pathogens. Forecasts suggest the extent of heat stress will increase concurrently by 4% (} 1%) in each 30-yr projection horizon. Drought stress shows no consistent trend over time. No disproportionate effect of climate change on the two alien invasive pathogens over the native is forecasted. These results suggest that forecasts of future climate suitability for pathogens based on historical climate normals are accurate for less than 30 yrs. Adaptive management strategies in forestry will be needed to respond as these changes unfold.

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