Assessing the Direct and Indirect Effects of Food Provisioning and Nutrient Enrichment on Wildlife Infectious Disease Dynamics

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wildlife, disease, resource supplementation, parasite transmission, fertilization, eutrophication

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Anthropogenic resource supplementation can shape wildlife disease directly by altering the traits and densities of hosts and parasites or indirectly by stimulating prey, competitor or predator species. We first assess the direct epidemiological consequences of supplementation, highlighting the similarities and differences between food provisioning and two widespread forms of nutrient input: agricultural fertilization and aquatic nutrient enrichment. We then review an aquatic disease system and a general model to assess whether predator and competitor species can enhance or overturn the direct effects of enrichment. All forms of supplementation can directly affect epidemics by increasing host population size or altering parasite production within hosts, but food provisioning is most likely to aggregate hosts and increase parasite transmission. However, if predators or competitors increase in response to supplementation, they could alter resource-fuelled outbreaks in focal hosts. We recommend identifying the traits of hosts, parasites or interacting species that best predict epidemiological responses to supplementation and evaluating the relative importance of these direct and indirect mechanisms. Theory and experiments should examine the timing of behavioural, physiological and demographic changes for realistic, variable scenarios of supplementation. A more integrative view of resource supplementation and wildlife disease could yield broadly applicable disease management strategies.

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Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, v. 373, art. 20170101