The biogeography and ecology of alien pathogenic fungi world-wide

Duration: 2022-2025

Funding: FWF


The world-wide human-mediated redistribution of taxa is a major consequence of globalization and has undergone rapid acceleration in the last decades. Macroecological approaches, utilizing large-scale databases, can uncover general mechanisms behind global patterns of alien species assemblages. Despite their importance for ecosystems, biota and human wellbeing, the ubiquitous realm of fungi is still underrepresented in ecological research in general and invasion science in particular. If pathogenic fungi are introduced to new regions, they may encounter naïve hosts that are particularly vulnerable due to a lack of adaptation. Consequently, they can cause enormous costs, for example by infesting agricultural crops and forest trees, or can affect ecosystem functioning, species composition, lead to species extinctions, and ultimately permanently transform whole landscapes. This project aims to contribute to the improvement of knowledge on biological invasions of pathogenic fungi and to explore large-scale distribution patterns by means of a comprehensive database, including regional distribution data, temporal information on introduction, functional traits, taxonomy, associated hosts, and socio-economic and environmental impacts. This will enable to tackle a multitude of research questions, i.e. i) assessing global spatio-temporal patterns of fungal pathogen introductions and spread and elucidating underlying drivers and future invasion risks; ii) examining patterns of existing and novel host-pathogen associations for their spread and test hypotheses related to the invasion process, such as enemy release; and iii) investigating which functional traits and taxonomic groups are associated with invasion success of alien fungal pathogens. The project team will closely collaborate with the global plant invasion initiative (GloNAF), the global native plant species distribution database (GIFT), and with mycologists and plant pathologists that will support the project as via their membership on the advisory board.


Franz Essl

Anna Schertler