Rust fungi and global change



Rust fungi are important components of ecological communities and in ecosystem function. Their unique life strategies as biotrophic pathogens with complicated life cycles could make them vulnerable to global environmental change. While there are gaps in our knowledge, especially in natural plant–rust systems, this review of the exposure of rust fungi to global change parameters revealed that some host–rust relationships would decline under predicted environmental change scenarios, whereas others would either remain unchanged or become more prevalent. Notably, some graminicolous rusts are negatively affected by higher temperatures and increased concentrations of atmospheric CO2. An increase of atmospheric O3 appears to favour rust diseases on trees but not those on grasses. Combined effects of CO2 and O3 are intermediary. The most important global drivers for the geographical and host plant range expansion and prevalence of rusts, however, are global plant trade, host plant genetic homogenization and the regular occurrence of conducive environmental conditions, especially the availability of moisture. However, while rusts thrive in high-humidity environments, they can also survive in desert habitats, and as a group their environmental tolerance is large, with no conclusive change in their overall prevalence predictable to date.