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Plant pathology in the context of ecosystem services
Sparks, Adam H.
Garrett, Karen A.
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Ecosystem services are processes by which the environment supplies resources that benefit humans. Evaluations of interactions between humans and the environment, such as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, are increasingly using the ecosystem services framework. We develop a conceptual model for plant disease within the context of ecosystem services. For example, greater plant biodiversity may provide the service of reducing disease risk in agricultural and natural systems; rice variety mixtures have been successful for managing rice blast. When tillage or the removal of other plant species is motivated by plant disease management, plant disease indirectly results in the reduction of the ecosystem services provided by plants and plant debris, such as regulating soil erosion and provisioning wildlife habitat. Disease may extirpate plant species provisioning food; the loss of chestnut trees due to chestnut blight has reduced the mass produced in Eastern North American forests. Plant pathologists can contribute to evaluation of ecosystem services by clarifying the role of plant disease and to maintenance of ecosystem services by developing disease management methods that optimize for multiple services.