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Raw data: Direct and insect-mediated effects of pathogens on plant growth and fitness

Cite this dataset

van Dijk, Laura; Ehrlen, Johan; Tack, Ayco (2021). Raw data: Direct and insect-mediated effects of pathogens on plant growth and fitness [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Plants are attacked by a large diversity of pathogens. These pathogens can affect plant growth and fitness directly, but also indirectly by inducing changes in the host plant that affect interactions with beneficial and antagonistic insects. Yet, we lack insights into the relative importance of direct and indirect effects of pathogens on their host plants, and how these effects differ among pathogen species.

2. In this study, we examined four fungal pathogens on the wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa). We used field observations to record the impacts of each pathogen species on plant growth and fitness throughout the season, and experimental hand-pollination and insect feeding trials to assess whether fitness impacts were mediated by pathogen-induced changes in plant-pollinator and plant-herbivore interactions.

3. Three out of four pathogens negatively affected plant size, and pathogens differed strongly in their effect on plant architecture. Infected plants had lower fitness, but this effect was not mediated by pollinators or herbivores. Even so, two out of four pathogens reduced herbivory on anemones in the field, and we found negative effects of pathogen infection on herbivore preference and performance in feeding trials.

4. Synthesis. Our results are of broader significance in two main respects. First, we demonstrated that pathogens negatively affected plant growth and fitness, and that the magnitude of these effects varied among pathogen species, suggesting that pathogens constitute important selective agents that differ in strength. Second, direct effects on plant fitness were more important than effects mediated by beneficial and antagonistic insects. In addition, even though we did not detect insect-mediated effects on plant fitness, the negative effects of some pathogens on herbivore preference and performance indicate that pathogen communities influence the distribution and abundance of herbivores.


This dataset contains the results of observational fieldwork and experimental work. The fieldwork was conducted in 2019 and 2020, around Stockholm (Sweden), on the perennial herb Anemone nemorosa. We followed individual plants during the growing season, and observed plant growth, fitness, fungal diseases and levels of herbivory. For the experimental work, we conducted preference and performance experiments on sawfly larvae feeding on Anemone nemorosa.


Vetenskapsrådet, Award: 2015-03993