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Disruption of metapopulation structure reduces Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease spread at the expense of abundance and genetic diversity


Durrant, R and Hamede, R and Wells, K and Lurgi, M, Disruption of metapopulation structure reduces Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease spread at the expense of abundance and genetic diversity, Pathogens, 10, (12) Article 1592. ISSN 2076-0817 (2021) [Refereed Article]


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Copyright 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://

DOI: doi:10.3390/pathogens10121592


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.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:dispersal; contact distance; landscape-scale genetic diversity; disease transmission; disease management; metapopulation networks; metapopulation disease dynamics; fragmentation
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Population ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Control of pests, diseases and exotic species in terrestrial environments
UTAS Author:Hamede, R (Dr Rodrigo Hamede Ross)
ID Code:152832
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:2
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2022-08-25
Last Modified:2022-09-13
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