The effect of soil-borne pathogens depends on the abundance of host tree species

Yu Liu, Suqin Fang, Peter Chesson, Fangliang He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


The overarching issue for understanding biodiversity maintenance is how fitness advantages accrue to a species as it becomes rare, as this is the defining feature of stable coexistence mechanisms. Without these fitness advantages, average fitness differences between species will lead to exclusion. However, empirical evidence is lacking, especially for forests, due to the difficulty of manipulating density on a large-enough scale. Here we took advantage of naturally occurring contrasts in abundance between sites of a subtropical tree species, Ormosia glaberrima, to demonstrate how low-density fitness advantages accrue by the Janzen-Connell mechanism. The results showed that soil pathogens suppressed seedling recruitment of O. glaberrima when it is abundant but had little effect on the seedlings when it is at low density due to the lack of pathogens. The difference in seedling survival between abundant and low-density sites demonstrates strong dependence of pathogenic effect on the abundance of host species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10017
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Dec 3 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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