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Acute oak decline (AOD) affects native UK oak species causing rapid decline and mortality in as little as five years. A major symptom of AOD is black weeping stem lesions associated with bacterial phytopathogens, Brenneria goodwinii and Gibbsiella quercinecans. However, there is limited knowledge on the ecological and environmental reservoirs of these phytopathogens. Rainwater and soils are common reservoirs of plant pathogens in a forest environment; therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the survival of B. goodwinii and G. quercinecans in vitro when inoculated into rainwater and forest soil using a combination of agar-based colony counts and gyrB gene-targeted quantitative PCR (qPCR). Brenneria goodwinii lost viability on inoculation into soil and rainwater, but was detectable at low abundance in soil for 28 days using qPCR, suggesting a limited ability to persist outside of the host, potentially in a viable but non-culturable (VBNC) state. Conversely, Gibbsiella quercinecans, was re-isolated from rainwater for the entire duration of the experiment (84 days) and was re-isolated from forest soil after 28 days, with qPCR analysis corroborating these trends. These data demonstrate that B. goodwinii is unable to survive in forest soils and rainwater, suggesting that it may be an endosymbiont of oak trees, whereas G. quercinecans remains viable in soil and rainwater biomes, suggesting a broad ecological distribution. These data advance understanding of the potential epidemiology of AOD-associated bacteria and their ecological reservoirs, thus increasing the overall knowledge of the pathology of AOD, which assists the development of future management strategies.


  • Acute oak decline, Culture-dependant, Environmental reservoirs, Forest pathology, Survivability, qPCR
Original languageEnglish
JournalSystematic and Applied Microbiology
Issue number2
Early online date3 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

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