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Disruption of Metapopulation Structure Reduces Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease Spread at the Expense of Abundance and Genetic Diversity

Rowan Durrant, Rodrigo Hamede, Konstans Wells Orcid Logo, Miguel Lurgi Rivera Orcid Logo

Pathogens, Volume: 10, Issue: 12, Start page: 1592

Swansea University Authors: Konstans Wells Orcid Logo, Miguel Lurgi Rivera Orcid Logo

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Abstract

Metapopulation structure plays a fundamental role in the persistence of wildlife populations. It can also drive the spread of infectious diseases and transmissible cancers such as the Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease (DFTD). While disrupting this structure can reduce disease spread, it can also...

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Published in: Pathogens
ISSN: 2076-0817
Published: MDPI AG 2021
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URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa58980
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Abstract: Metapopulation structure plays a fundamental role in the persistence of wildlife populations. It can also drive the spread of infectious diseases and transmissible cancers such as the Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease (DFTD). While disrupting this structure can reduce disease spread, it can also impair host resilience by disrupting gene flow and colonisation dynamics. Using an individual-based metapopulation model we investigated the synergistic effects of host dispersal, disease transmission rate and inter-individual contact distance for transmission, on the spread and persistence of DFTD from local to regional scales. Disease spread, and the ensuing population declines, are synergistically determined by individuals’ dispersal, disease transmission rate and within-population mixing. Transmission rates can be magnified by high dispersal and inter-individual transmission distance. The isolation of local populations effectively reduced metapopulation-level disease prevalence but caused severe declines in metapopulation size and genetic diversity. The relative position of managed (i.e., isolated) local populations had a significant effect on disease prevalence, highlighting the importance of considering metapopulation structure when implementing metapopulation-scale disease control measures. Our findings suggest that population isolation is not an ideal management method for preventing disease spread in species inhabiting already fragmented landscapes, where genetic diversity and extinction risk are already a concern.
Keywords: dispersal; contact distance; landscape-scale genetic diversity; disease transmission; disease management; metapopulation networks; metapopulation disease dynamics; fragmentation
College: College of Science
Issue: 12
Start Page: 1592