The effect of predation on the prevalence and aggregation of pathogens in prey

03 October 2011

Although pathogens and predators have been widely used as bio-control agents against problematic prey species, little has been done to examine the prevalence and aggregation of pathogens in spatially structured eco-epidemiological systems. Here, we present a spatial model of a predator–prey/host–parasite system based on pair approximation and spatially stochastic simulations, with the predation pressure indicated by predator abundance and predation rates. Susceptible prey can not only be infected by contacting adjacent infected individuals but also by the global transmission of pathogens. The disease prevalence was found to follow a hump-shaped function in response to predation pressure. Moreover, predation pressure was not always negatively correlated with pathogen aggregation as proposed from empirical studies, but depending on the level of predation pressure. Highly connected site network facilitated the parasites infection, especially under high predation pressure. However, the connectivity of site network had no effect on the prevalence and aggregation of pathogens that can infect health prey through global transmission. It is thus possible to better design biological control strategies for target species by manipulating predation pressure and the range of pathogen transmission.