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The establishment and spread of a disease within a metapopulation is influenced both by dynamics within each population and by the host and pathogen spatial processes through which they are connected. We develop a spatially explicit metapopulation model to investigate how the form of host and disease dispersal jointly influence the probability of disease establishment and invasion. We show that diseases are more likely to establish if both the host and the disease tend to disperse locally, since the former leads to the spatial aggregation of host populations in the environment while the latter facilitates the pathogen's exploitation of this spatial pattern. In contrast, local pathogen dispersal is likely to reduce the probability of subsequent disease spread because it increases the spatial segregation of infected and uninfected populations. The effects of local dispersal on disease dynamics are less pronounced when the pathogen spreads through the movement of infected hosts and more pronounced when pathogen dispersal is independent (for example through airborne viruses) though the details of host and pathogen biology can be important. These spatial effects tend to be more pronounced if the sites available for host occupation are themselves spatially aggregated.

Original publication




Journal article


J Theor Biol

Publication Date





57 - 65


Correlated landscape, Disease, Dispersal kernel, Metapopulation, Spatial moments, Animals, Communicable Diseases, Humans, Models, Biological, Population Dynamics