Spatiotemporal dynamics of the epidemic transmission in a predator-prey system

15 August 2009

Epidemic transmission is one of the critical density-dependent mechanisms that affect species viability and dynamics. In a predator-prey system, epidemic transmission can strongly affect the success probability of hunting, especially for social animals. Predators, therefore, will suffer from the positive density-dependence, i.e., Allee effect, due to epidemic transmission in the population. The rate of species contacting the epidemic, especially for those endangered or invasive, has largely increased due to the habitat destruction caused by anthropogenic disturbance. Using ordinary differential equations and cellular automata, we here explored the epidemic transmission in a predator-prey system. Results show that a moderate Allee effect will destabilize the dynamics, but it is not true for the extreme Allee effect (weak or strong). The predator-prey dynamics amazingly stabilize by the extreme Allee effect. Predators suffer the most from the epidemic disease at moderate transmission probability. Counter-intuitively, habitat destruction will benefit the control of the epidemic disease. The demographic stochasticity dramatically influences the spatial distribution of the system. The spatial distribution changes from oil-bubble-like (due to local interaction) to aggregated spatially scattered points (due to local interaction and demographic stochasticity). It indicates the possibility of using human disturbance in habitat as a potential epidemic-control method in conservation.