Local context drives infection of grasses by vector-borne generalist viruses

Elizabeth T. Borer, Eric W. Seabloom, Charles E. Mitchell, Alison G. Power

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Host characteristics commonly determine infection risk, but infection can also be mediated by regional- or local-scale variation in the biotic and abiotic environment. Experiments can clarify the relative importance of these factors. We quantified drivers of infection by barley and cereal yellow dwarf viruses (B/CYDV), a group of generalist, vector-borne grass pathogens, at hierarchically nested spatial scales (105-1 m) by planting individuals of six common grass species into five Pacific Coast grassland sites spanning 7° of latitude (> 5000 total hosts) and applying a factorial combination of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer. Infection differed most among experimental blocks (102-103 m scale), suggesting that local factors control infection risk; infection increased with cover of long-lived hosts and phosphorus, but not nitrogen, fertilization. For B/CYDV, local context more strongly predicts infection risk than host species traits or regional context; such spatially nested experiments can clarify the factors underlying variation in infection risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)810-818
Number of pages9
JournalEcology letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Barley and cereal yellow dwarf virus
  • California grassland
  • Disease ecology
  • Infection risk
  • Landscape
  • Regional


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