Networks in plant epidemiology: From genes to landscapes, countries, and continents

Mathieu Moslonka-Lefebvre, Ann Finley, Ilaria Dorigatti, Katharina Dehnen-Schmutz, Tom Harwood, Michael J. Jeger, Xiangming Xu, Ottmar Holdenrieder, Marco Pautasso

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


There is increasing use of networks in ecology and epidemiology, but still relatively little application in phytopathology. Networks are sets of elements (nodes) connected in various ways by links (edges). Network analysis aims to understand system dynamics and outcomes in relation to network characteristics. Many existing natural, social, and technological networks have been shown to have small-world (local connectivity with short-cuts) and scale-free (presence of superconnected nodes) properties. In this review, we discuss how network concepts can be applied in plant pathology from the molecular to the landscape and global level. Wherever disease spread occurs not just because of passive/natural dispersion but also due to artificial movements, it makes sense to superimpose realistic models of the trade in plants on spatially explicit models of epidemic development. We provide an example of an emerging pathosystem (Phytophthora ramorum) where a theoretical network approach has proven particularly fruitful in analyzing the spread of disease in the UK plant trade. These studies can help in assessing the future threat posed by similar emerging pathogens. Networks have much potential in plant epidemiology and should become part of the standard curriculum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-403
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Biodiversity
  • Complexity and stability
  • Modeling host-pathogen interactions
  • Network theory
  • Sudden oak death
  • Systems biology.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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