Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Intraspecific and biogeographical variation in foliar fungal communities and pathogen damage of native and invasive Phragmites australis

March 26, 2020


Recent research has highlighted that the relationship between species interactions and latitude can differ between native and invasive plant taxa, generating biogeographical heterogeneity in community resistance to plant invasions. In the first study with foliar pathogens, we tested whether co‐occurring native and invasive lineages of common reed (Phragmites australis ) exhibit non‐parallel latitudinal gradients in foliar fungal communities, pathogen susceptibility and damage, and whether these biogeographical patterns can influence the success of invasion.


North America.

Time period


Major taxa studied

Perennial grass P. australis .


We surveyed 35 P. australis field populations, spanning 17° latitude and comprising four phylogeographical lineages, including one endemic to North America and one invasive from Europe. For each population, we quantified the percentage of leaf pathogen damage and cultured fungi from diseased leaves, which we identified using molecular tools. To assess whether latitudinal gradients in pathogen damage had a genetic basis, we inoculated plants from 73 populations with four putative pathogens in a complementary common garden experiment and measured P. australis susceptibility (i.e., diseased leaf area).


We isolated 84 foliar fungal taxa. Phragmites australis lineage influenced fungal community composition but not diversity. Despite the invasive European P. australis lineage being the least susceptible to three of the four pathogens tested in the common garden experiment, pathogen damage in the field was similar between native and invasive lineages, providing no evidence that release from foliar pathogens contributes to the success of invasion. Genetically based latitudinal gradients in pathogen susceptibility observed in the common garden were isolate specific and obscured by local environmental conditions in the field, where pathogen damage was threefold higher for northern compared with southern populations, regardless of lineage.

Main conclusions

Our results highlight that host plant lineage and genetically based biogeographical gradients strongly influence foliar fungal communities and pathogen susceptibility, but do not translate to patterns of pathogen damage observed in the field.

Publication Year 2020
Title Intraspecific and biogeographical variation in foliar fungal communities and pathogen damage of native and invasive Phragmites australis
DOI 10.1111/geb.13097
Authors Warwick J. Allen, Aaron Devries, Nicholas J. Bologna, Wesley A. Bickford, Kurt P. Kowalski, Laura A. Meyerson, James T. Cronin
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Global Ecology and Biogeography
Index ID 70211209
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Great Lakes Science Center