Emerging diseases represent a growing worldwide problem accompanying global environmental changes. There is tremendous interest in identifying the factors controlling the appearance and spread of these diseases. Here, we discuss emerging fungal plant diseases, and argue that they often result from host shift speciation (a particular case of ecological speciation). We consider the factors controlling local adaptation and ecological speciation, and show that certain life-history traits of many fungal plant pathogens are conducive for rapid ecological speciation, thus favoring the emergence of novel pathogen species adapted to new hosts. We argue that placing the problem of emerging fungal diseases of plants within the context of ecological speciation can significantly improve our understanding of the biological mechanisms governing the emergence of such diseases.
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