Functional Roles of Parasitic Plants in a Warming World

David M. Watson, Richard C. Mclellan, Francisco E. Fonturbel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We consider the mechanistic basis and functional significance of the pervasive influence of parasitic plants on productivity and diversity, synthesizing recent findings on their responses to drought, heat waves, and fire. Although parasites represent just 1% of all angiosperms, the ecophysiological traits associated with parasitism confer pronounced impacts on their hosts and disproportionate influence upon community structure, composition, and broader ecosystem function. New insights into the roles of their pollinators, seed dispersers, and litter-dependent detritivores have advanced our understanding of how parasitic plants modulate animal communities via their extended and complementary phenology. Direct and indirect impacts of climate change on parasitic plants and their ecological roles are already apparent. Trade-offs between maximizing efficiency at obtaining water from hosts and sensitivity to water stress underlie range shifts and host switching of parasitic plants and increased reliance on these plants by animal communities for food and shelter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-45
Number of pages21
JournalAnnual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
StatePublished - 2 Nov 2022


  • Orobanchaceae
  • Santalales
  • hemiparasite
  • microclimate
  • mistletoe
  • phenology


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