Disease-mediated ecosystem services: Pathogens, plants, and people

Rachel E. Paseka, Lauren A. White, Dedmer B. Van de Waal, Alex T. Strauss, Angélica L. González, Rebecca A. Everett, Angela Peace, Eric W. Seabloom, Thijs Frenken, Elizabeth T. Borer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Despite the ubiquity of pathogens in ecological systems, their roles in influencing ecosystem services are often overlooked. Pathogens that infect primary producers (i.e., plants, algae, cyanobacteria) can have particularly strong effects because autotrophs are responsible for a wide range of provisioning, regulating, and cultural services. We review the roles of pathogens in mediating ecosystem services provided by autotrophs and outline scenarios in which infection may lead to unexpected outcomes in response to global change. Our synthesis highlights a deficit of information on this topic, and we outline a vision for future research that includes integrative theory and cross-system empirical studies. Ultimately, knowledge about the mediating roles of pathogens on ecosystem services should inform environmental policy and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)731-743
Number of pages13
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a grant to E.T.B. from the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) under funding received from the National Science Foundation DBI-1639145 . We thank Andrea Stephens and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • autotroph
  • ecosystem services
  • global change
  • infectious disease
  • pathogens
  • primary producer


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