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Keywords:

  • Host–parasite interaction;
  • indirect effects;
  • infectious disease;
  • isocline analysis;
  • multiple host species;
  • parasite invasion

Abstract

Many pathogens and parasites attack multiple host species, so their ability to invade a host community can depend on host community composition. We present a graphical isocline framework for studying disease establishment in systems with two host species, based on treating host species as resources. The isocline approach provides a natural generalization to multi-host systems of two related concepts in disease ecology – the basic reproductive rate of a parasite, and threshold host density. Qualitative isocline shape characterizes the threshold community configurations that permit parasite establishment. In general, isocline shape reflects the relative forces of inter- and intraspecific transmission of shared parasites. We discuss the qualitative implications of parasite isocline shape for issues of mounting concern in conservation ecology.