Summary In the Western Italian Alps (WIA), the three European species of the forest pathogen Heterobasidion spp. can coexist in the same area. Heterobasidion parviporum Niemelä & Korhonen and Heterobasidion abietinum Niemelä & Korhonen are normally found in areas with a significant presence of their respective primary hosts, spruce (Picea spp.) and fir (Abies spp.). The host/niche occupied by Heterobasidion annosum (Fr.) Bref. in the region still remains unclear. Although Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), a major host for this fungal species in other parts of Europe, is abundant in the region, little or no evidence of disease caused by H. annosum is visible in this tree species. Two different, but not mutually exclusive, hypotheses can explain the presence of H. annosum: (1) Scots pines are infected but largely asymptomatic and (2) H. annosum has adapted to different hosts. An analysis of Heterobasidion species was performed in two natural, mixed-conifer forests using traditional isolation techniques and novel direct molecular diagnosis from wood. In a subalpine stand of mixed spruce (Picea abies), larch (Larix spp.), and Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra), 18 naturally infected spruces and larches only yielded H. parviporum. A Swiss stone pine in the same stand was extensively colonized by both H. parviporum and H. annosum. In a second subalpine stand, an analysis of 18 spruce stumps and nine Swiss stone pine stumps yielded both H. parviporum and H. annosum isolates. Pine stumps had been mostly colonized by H. parviporum prior to tree felling, suggesting that this species may be secondarily infected by the locally predominant Heterobasidion species (i.e. H. parviporum). Results of our analysis also indicated that primary colonization of spruce stumps (e.g. through basidiospores) was caused by both H. parviporum and H. annosum, while secondary infection of such stumps was mostly because of H. parviporum.
University of Torino, Department of Exploitation and Protection of Agricultural and Forestry Resources (Di.Va.P.R.A.) – Plant Pathology, Via L. da Vinci 44, I-10095 Grugliasco, Italy; 2:
University of California – Berkeley, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management – Ecosystem Sciences Division (ESPM-ES), Berkeley, CA 94720, USA;