Indicator species analysis: A useful tool for plant disease studies

Indicator species analysis (ISA) uses indices of an organism’s relative abundance and occurrence to estimate the strength of its associations with a priori groups of interest and a simple randomization test to evaluate the probability of association.

Because ISA values tend to be greatest when a species is both relatively more abundant than other species in a particular group and it occurs more frequently in that same group (the expectations of a causal agent in diseased plants), ISA should be useful for identifying and narrowing the list of potential causal agents from a pool of pathogens in both emerging plant diseases and when the causal agent is unclear.

Recent ISA plant disease applications suggests it may either directly identify a single causal agent from a pool of potential pathogens or narrow the pool of pathogens as candidates for pathogenicity tests in the process of fulfilling Koch’s postulates.

In a letter, scientists explain the underpinnings of ISA, summarize the known applications to plant pathosystems, offer caveats about the analysis, and suggest scenarios where ISA may be broadly applicable for plant disease studies.
Read more at APS.

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