The effect of landscape heterogeneity on host–parasite dynamics

15 August 2009

Environmental heterogeneity has been shown to have a profound effect on population dynamics and biological invasions, yet the effect of its spatial structure on the dynamics of disease invasion in a spatial host–parasite system has received little attention. Here we explore the effect of environment heterogeneity using the pair approximation and the stochastic spatially explicit simulation in which the lost patches are clustered in a fragmented landscape. The intensity of fragmentation is defined by the amount and spatial autocorrelation of the lost habitat. More fragmented landscape (high amount of habitat loss, low clustering of lost patches) was shown to be detrimental to the parasitic disease invasion and transmission, which implies that the potential of using artificial disturbances as a disease-control agency in biological conservation and management. Two components of the spatial heterogeneity (the amount and spatial autocorrelation of the lost habitat) formed a trade-off in determining the host–parasite dynamics. An extremely high degree of habitat loss was, counter-intuitively, harmful to the host. These results enrich our understanding of eco-epidemiological, host–parasite systems, and suggest the possibility of using the spatial arrangement of habitat patches as a conservation tool for guarding focal species against parasitic infection and transmission.