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Forest Pathology

Our research is focused on forest tree diseases, specifically studying the biology and epidemiology of diseases caused by pathogenic fungi as well as their control and management by proceeding in the disease cycle and breeding for resistance

Grupo de investigación dependiente del

Forest Research Centre (CIFOR)

Department of Ecology and Forest Genetics

Our research in the Forest Pathology lab addresses the challenges faced by forests in Spain due to diseases causing severe damages and tree mortality, with a focus on emergent and/or invasive diseases influenced by global change.

Damages having an effect on productivity of forest products, ecological and landscape value and recreational use require to know their cause and impact on forest trees with implications in productive sectors of forest industry, flora and fauna and the citizen use of forests.

- Pine Pitch Canker caused by Fusarium circinatum, an emergent disease in Europe, with a quarantine regulation.

- Shoot blight of pines caused by Diplodia sapinea, also a canker disease.

- Other canker diseases of the Botryosphaeriaceae family with a potential impact on tree health due to climate change: Neofusiccocum parvum and Lasiodiplodia theobromae.

- Fungal pathogens involved in forest decline in Madrid province and their interaction with climate change.


Pine Pitch Canker caused by Fusarium circinatum

We investigate many significant aspects of the disease, whose first official detection in Europe was in Spain in 2005 and since then regulated as a quarantine disease. It has an important impact on Pinus radiata plantations in Northern Spain, and in nurseries of several Pinus species. Our results have relevant implications for disease control and management:

- Impact of seed transmission on disease development and management in nurseries:

- Transmission from seed to tree is positively correlated with tree disease severity.

- The fungus is mainly present on the seed coat.

- Seeds may be contaminated by the fungus during storage, particularly with high relative humidity conditions regardless temperature.

- Transmission rate from seed to seedling 48 days after sowing is up to 80%.

- One year old seedlings grown from infested seed by the fungus may be colonized by the fungus without visible symptoms, which should be considered when seedlings are moved to new plantations.

- Detection of the fungus in pines (roots and trunks) with no symptoms of pitch canker disease as well as in herbaceous species near the infected trees.

- Fungus Survival: Mycelia or spores of the fungus do not survive in the soil. Fungus on needles or wood chips on soil may survive up to 2 years.

- Pathogenic life-history traits of the fungus: virulence, sporulation, spore germination, and mycelial growth:

- Traits measured in two fungal isolates representing the two predominant haplotypes in which Spanish fungal population is structured,

- Analyis of the influence of temperature and wetness period on these traits.

- One of the studied isolates showed higher disease severity on Pinus radiata at 25 and 30 ºC and also a higher spore germination and sporulation at 20 and 25 ºC, with hypha melanization for the first time reported for this fungus.

- Potential impact of the disease on Pinus pinaster:

- Resistance to Fusarium circinatum was measured in Pinus pinaster populations of a clonal bank with family structure.

- High genetic variation was found at the three hierarchical levels studied: population, family and clone, being both additive and non-additive effects important

Narrow-sense heritability estimates were relatively high, with values of 0.43–0.58. Provenances from Galicia and Asturias were the most resistant.

- A high quality Pinus pinaster de novo transcriptome assembly was generated and utilized to determine the expression profiles of Fusarium circinuatum and Pinus pinaster during the infection process at 3, 5 and 10 days post-inoculation using a dual RNA-sequencing approach.​

Diplodia sapinea yand other fungi of the Botryospharieaceae family, Neofusiccocum parvum and Lasiodiploida theobromae

Diplodia sapinea is a fungal pathogen in pine species grown in Spain. Main symptoms are shoot blight and cankers of branches and trunks. Neofusiccocum parvum and Lasiodiploida theobromae produce cankers in many tree species and their incidence have not been studied so far in Spain. However, they may have an impact on tree health due to the temperature rise in some areas of Spain. They are oftenly present in a latent stage and symptoms appear when trees are exposed to stress conditions.

- We have described for the first time the presence of Diplodia sapinea in roots of asymptomatic Pinus radiata trees. Roots had not yet been considered in the disease epidemiology.

- We are studying the genetic diversity of Diplodia sapinea populations in Spain in order to compare them with other populations in the world.

- We are trying to elucidate the interaction between canker pathogens infecting the same tree to know colonization processes and symptom induction during infection.

- We are assessing the influence of heat episodes in Pinus pinaster colonization by Diploida sapinea, Neofusiccocum parvum and Lasiodiplodia theobromae​

Pathogens involved in forest decline in Madrid province and their interaction with climate change

Pinus pinaster forest stands have been showing decline and accelerated mortality during last years. Our studies on these stands related to the presence of pathogens show that:

- Decline is associated to abiotic stresses that include climate legacies but not to the presence of fungal pathogens.

- Tree species more tolerant to drought in this region with drought episodes could lead to the replacement of the dominant sp. Pinus pinaster.​


Coordinador de Grupo

  • Laura Hernández Escribano
    Fusarium circinatum-host interaction: ecological and molecular aspects of the pathogenic and endophytic association
    Dirección: Rosa Raposo | Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
  • David Fariña
    Mecanismos de defensa en Pinus pinaster frente a la infección por Fusarium circinatum
    Dirección: Rosa Raposo | Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

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