, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 281-289
Date: 07 Dec 2006

The Role of Ecotones in Emerging Infectious Diseases


Recognition of the significance of the boundary between ecological systems, often referred to as the ecotone, has a long history in the ecological sciences and in zoonotic disease research. More recent research in landscape ecology has produced an expanded view of ecotones and elaboration of their characteristics and functions in ecosystems. Parallel research on emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) and the causes of increased rates of pathogen transmission, spread, and adaptation suggests a correspondence between ecotonal processes and the ecological and evolutionary processes responsible for zoonotic and vector-borne emerging infections. A review of the literature suggests that ecotones play a role in a number of the most important EIDs. Yet these are the only diseases for which specific landscape ecological information exists in the literature or disease reports. However, the similar disease ecologies of these with about half of the approximately 130 zoonotic EIDs suggests ecotones, particularly their anthropogenic origination or modification, may be generally associated with ecotones and the global trend of increasing EIDs.