The predicted impact of resource provisioning on the epidemiological responses of different parasites

Diana Erazo*, Amy B. Pedersen, Andy Fenton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anthropogenic activities and natural events such as periodic tree masting can alter resource provisioning in the environment, directly affecting animals, and potentially impacting the spread of infectious diseases in wildlife. The impact of these additional resources on infectious diseases can manifest through different pathways, affecting host susceptibility, contact rate and host demography. To date however, empirical research has tended to examine these different pathways in isolation, for example by quantifying the effects of provisioning on host behaviour in the wild or changes in immune responses in controlled laboratory studies. Furthermore, while theory has investigated the interactions between these pathways, this work has focussed on a narrow subset of pathogen types, typically directly transmitted microparasites. Given the diverse ways that provisioning can affect host susceptibility, contact patterns or host demography, we may expect the epidemiological consequences of provisioning to vary among different parasite types, dependent on key aspects of parasite life history, such as the duration of infection and transmission mode. Focusing on an exemplar empirical system, the wood mouse Apodemus sylvaticus, and its diverse parasite community, we developed a suite of epidemiological models to compare how resource provisioning alters responses for a range of these parasites that vary in their biology (microparasite and macroparasite), transmission mode (direct, environmental and vector transmitted) and duration of infection (acute, latent and chronic) within the same host population. We show there are common epidemiological responses to host resource provisioning across all parasite types examined. In particular, the epidemiological impact of provisioning could be driven in opposite directions, depending on which host pathways (contact rate, susceptibility or host demography) are most altered by the addition of resources to the environment. Broadly, these responses were qualitatively consistent across all parasite types, emphasising the importance of identifying general trade-offs between provisioning-altered parameters. Despite the qualitative consistency in responses to provisioning across parasite types, we predicted notable quantitative differences between parasites, with directly transmitted parasites (those conforming to SIR and SIS frameworks) predicted to show the strongest responses to provisioning among those examined, whereas the vector-borne parasites showed negligible responses to provisioning. As such, these analyses suggest that different parasites may show different scales of response to the same provisioning scenario, even within the same host population. This highlights the importance of knowing key aspects of host–parasite biology, to understand and predict epidemiological responses to provisioning for any specific host–parasite system.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Early online date28 May 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 May 2022


  • apodemus sylvaticus
  • compartmental models
  • disease ecology
  • epidemiology
  • host–parasite interactions
  • provisioning
  • resource levels
  • supplemental feeding


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