Global change is pressing forest pathologists to solve increasingly complex problems. We argue that understanding interactive effects between forest pathogens and global warming, globalization, and land-use changes may benefit from a functional ecology mindset. Traits can be more informative about ecological functions than species inventories and may deliver a more mechanistic description of forest disease. Myriad microbes with pathogenic potential interact with forest ecosystems at different organizational levels. Elucidation of functional traits may enable the microbial complexity to be reduced into manageable categories with predictive power. In this review, we propose guidelines that allow the research community to develop a functional forest pathology approach. We suggest new angles by which functional questions can be used to resolve burning issues on tree disease. Building up functional databases for pathogenicity is key to implementing these approaches.
Keywords: Phytophthora; forest pathology; functional trait; invasive pathogen; nutrient cycling; root rot pathogen.