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The proportion of soil-borne pathogens increases with warming at the global scale



Understanding the present and future distribution of soil-borne plant pathogens is critical to supporting food and fibre production in a warmer world. Using data from a global field survey and a nine-year field experiment, we show that warmer temperatures increase the relative abundance of soil-borne potential fungal plant pathogens. Moreover, we provide a global atlas of these organisms along with future distribution projections under different climate change and land-use scenarios. These projections show an overall increase in the relative abundance of potential plant pathogens worldwide. This work advances our understanding of the global distribution of potential fungal plant pathogens and their sensitivity to ongoing climate and land-use changes, which is fundamental to reduce their incidence and impacts on terrestrial ecosystems globally.

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Fig. 1: Relative abundance, identity and ecological preferences of potential plant pathogens worldwide.
Fig. 2: Temperature is positively associated with the relative abundance of potential plant pathogens at the genus level.
Fig. 3: Experimental evidence that warming increases the relative and total abundance of potential plant pathogens.
Fig. 4: Current relative abundance and temporal projections (2050) of potential plant pathogens across the globe.

Data availability

The data associated with the global field survey and the field experiment are publicly available in Figshare57.

Code availability

Most numerical analyses included in this article do not have an associated code. Used codes are available in Figshare57.


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This project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 702057 and the European Research Council (ERC) grant agreements no. 242658 (BIOCOM) and no. 647038 (BIODESERT). We thank R. D. Bardgett, N. Fierer, A. Benavent-González and D. J. Eldridge for their original contributions to the global survey, and V. Ochoa, C. Escolar, P. Alonso, B. Gozalo and S. Ochoa for maintaining the warming experiment and for their help with laboratory analyses. We also thank M.S. Martin for revising the English of the manuscript. M.D.-B. is supported by a Ramón y Cajal grant from the Spanish Government (agreement no. RYC2018-025483-I) and a MUSGONET grant (LRA17\1193) from the British Ecological Society. F.T.M. also acknowledges funding from Generalitat Valenciana (CIDEGENT/2018/041) and from sDiv, the synthesis centre of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research Halle–Jena–Leipzig (iDiv). Work on microbial distribution and colonization in the B.K.S. laboratory is funded by the Australian Research Council (DP190103714). B.K.S. also acknowledges a research award by the Humboldt Foundation. C.A.G. and N.E. acknowledge support from iDiv, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG FZT118) through flexpool proposals 34600850 and 34600844. N.E. also acknowledges support from the ERC under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 677232).

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Authors and Affiliations



M.D.-B. developed the original idea of the analyses presented in the manuscript. M.D.-B, F.T.M. and B.K.S. led the global survey. F.T.M. designed the field warming experiment and has maintained it over the years. Lab analyses were done by M.D.-B., C.C.-D., E.E., F.T.M. and B.K.S. Bioinformatic analyses were done by B.K.S., J.-T.W. and E.E. Statistical modelling, mapping and data interpretations were done by C.A.G., N.E. and M.D.-B. The manuscript was written by M.D.-B. with contributions from all the co-authors.

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Correspondence to Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo.

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Peer review information Nature Climate Change thanks Leho Tedersoo and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Appendices 1 and 2, Figs. 1–12 and Tables 1–10.

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Delgado-Baquerizo, M., Guerra, C.A., Cano-Díaz, C. et al. The proportion of soil-borne pathogens increases with warming at the global scale. Nat. Clim. Chang. 10, 550–554 (2020).

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