Despite the ubiquity of pathogens in ecological systems, their roles in influencing ecosystem services are often overlooked. Pathogens that infect primary producers (i.e., plants, algae, cyanobacteria) can have particularly strong effects because autotrophs are responsible for a wide range of provisioning, regulating, and cultural services. We review the roles of pathogens in mediating ecosystem services provided by autotrophs and outline scenarios in which infection may lead to unexpected outcomes in response to global change. Our synthesis highlights a deficit of information on this topic, and we outline a vision for future research that includes integrative theory and cross-system empirical studies. Ultimately, knowledge about the mediating roles of pathogens on ecosystem services should inform environmental policy and practice.
Read the article in Trends in Ecology and Evolution.