Landscape Ecology

, Volume 33, Issue 8, pp 1259–1272 | Cite as

Spatial configuration becomes more important with increasing habitat loss: a simulation study of environmentally-transmitted parasites

  • Tyler R. Bonnell
  • Ria R. Ghai
  • Tony L. Goldberg
  • Raja Sengupta
  • Colin A. Chapman
Research Article



Landscape changes can be an important modifier of disease. Habitat fragmentation commonly results in reduced connectivity in host populations and increased use of the remaining habitat. For environmentally transmitted parasites, this presents a possible trade-off between transmission potential at the local and global level.


We quantify the effects of fragmentation on the transmission of an environmentally transmitted parasite, teasing apart the relative effects of habitat composition and configuration on both host movement behaviour and subsequent infection patterns.


We use a spatially-explicit epidemiological model to simulate the effects of habitat fragmentation, using, as an example, whipworm (Trichuris sp.) within a red colobus monkey population (Procolobus rufomitratus).


We found that habitat fragmentation did not always lead to a trade-off between population connectivity and concentration of habitat use in host movement behaviour or in final population infection patterns. However, our simulation results suggest the spatial configuration of the remaining habitat became increasingly influential on behavioural and infection outcomes as habitat was removed. Additionally, we found common fragmentation metrics provided little ability to explain variation in propagation of infections.


Our results suggest an interaction between habitat configuration and composition should be considered when assessing disease related impacts of habitat fragmentation on environmentally transmitted parasites, especially in cases where habitat loss is high (≥ 30%). We also propose that spatially-explicit simulations that capture a host’s response to fragmentation could aid in the development of novel landscape metrics targeted towards specific host-parasite-landscape systems.


Habitat fragmentation Infectious disease Spatially-explicit epidemiological model Red colobus Kibale National Park Landscape connectivity Host movement 



We gratefully acknowledge the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology and the Uganda Wildlife Authority for permission to conduct this research, as well as two anonymous reviewers who gave helpful comments on this manuscript. Funding for the research was provided by the Canada Research Chairs Program, Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Kyoto University, Fonds Québécois de la Recherche sur la Nature et les Technologies, National Geographic and by NIH grant TW009237 as part of the joint NIH-NSF Ecology of Infectious Disease program and the UK Economic and Social Research Council. TRB was supported by an FQRNT Fellowship.

Supplementary material

10980_2018_666_MOESM1_ESM.docx (274 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 274 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of LethbridgeLethbridgeCanada
  2. 2.Department of Environmental SciencesEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Pathobiological Sciences and School of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  4. 4.Department of GeographyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  5. 5.Department of Anthropology and McGill School of EnvironmentMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  6. 6.Wildlife Conservation SocietyBronxUSA
  7. 7.Section of Social Systems Evolution, Primate Research InstituteKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan

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