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Increased migration in host–pathogen metapopulations can cause host extinction

Journal article
Authors Karin C. Harding
M. Begon
Anders Eriksson
Bernt Wennberg
Published in Journal of Theoretical Biology
Volume 298
Pages 1-7
ISSN 0022-5193
Publication year 2012
Published at Linnaeus Centre for Marine Evolutionary Biology (CEMEB)
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Department of Mathematical Sciences, Mathematics
Pages 1-7
Language en
Keywords Metapopulation; Allee effect; Extinction risk; Spill over; Epidemiology
Subject categories Biological Sciences


There are at least two potentially counteracting effects of migration in host–pathogen metapopulations. On the one hand increased migration leads to increased colonization of empty habitats by healthy hosts; on the other hand migrants can carry infectious diseases to susceptible populations. Earlier metapopulation models have found that the beneficial effects of increasing migration (reduced infection) are likely to dominate, and a general recommendation for managers of endangered metapopulations has been to increase connectivity between habitat patches. We extend the model framework to simultaneously allow for (1) Allee effects in host colonization rate, (2) spillover of pathogens from a second host species, and (3) differential colonization success by infected and healthy hosts. We find that the dynamics of a host–pathogen system can be highly sensitive to increased migration rates. Allee effects make host populations vulnerable to spillover of pathogens from other hosts, and metapopulation extinction can emerge from seemingly stable situations of endemic coexistence. Increasing connectivity in endangered metapopulations can be a risky management action unless the details of the biology of the host–pathogen system are known.

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