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Citation for Study 10078

About Citation title: "Do extreme environments provide a refuge from pathogens? A phylogenetic test using serpentine flax".
About This study was previously identified under the legacy study ID S2418 (Status: Published).


Springer Y. 2009. Do extreme environments provide a refuge from pathogens? A phylogenetic test using serpentine flax. American Journal of Botany, 96: 2010-2021.


  • Springer Y.


Because abiotically extreme environments are often associated with physiological stressful conditions, small, low-density populations, and depauperate flora and fauna relative to more benign settings, organisms that occupy these stressful habitats may experience fitness benefits associated with reductions in the frequency and/or intensity of antagonistic species interactions. I investigated a particular form of this effect, the pathogen refuge hypothesis, through a study of 13 species of wild flax that grow on stressful serpentine soils and are often infected by a pathogenic fungal rust. The host species vary in the degree of their serpentine association: some specialize on extreme serpentine soils while others are generalists that occur on soils with a wide range of serpentine influence. Phylogenetically explicit analyses of soil chemistry and field-measured infection rates indicated that rust infection was significantly less frequent and severe in flax populations growing in more stressful, low calcium serpentine soils. These findings may help to explain the persistence of extremophile species in habitats where stressful physical conditions often impose strong autecological fitness costs on associated organisms. Ancestral state reconstruction of serpentine soil tolerance (approximated using soil calcium concentrations) suggested that the ability to tolerate extreme serpentine soils may have evolved multiple times within the focal genus.

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