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Movement can mediate temporal mismatches between resource availability and biological events in host–pathogen interactions

Kürschner, Tobias; Scherer, Cédric; Radchuk, Viktoriia; Blaum, Niels; Kramer‐Schadt, Stephanie

Global change is shifting the timing of biological events, leading to temporal mismatches between biological events and resource availability. These temporal mismatches can threaten species’ populations. Importantly, temporal mismatches not only exert strong pressures on the population dynamics of the focal species, but can also lead to substantial changes in pairwise species interactions such as host–pathogen systems. We adapted an established individual‐based model of host–pathogen dynamics. The model describes a viral agent in a social host, while accounting for the host's explicit movement decisions. We aimed to investigate how temporal mismatches between seasonal resource availability and host life‐history events affect host–pathogen coexistence, that is, disease persistence. Seasonal resource fluctuations only increased coexistence probability when in synchrony with the hosts’ biological events. However, a temporal mismatch reduced host–pathogen coexistence, but only marginally. In tandem with an increasing temporal mismatch, our model showed a shift in the spatial distribution of infected hosts. It shifted from an even distribution under synchronous conditions toward the formation of disease hotspots, when host life history and resource availability mismatched completely. The spatial restriction of infected hosts to small hotspots in the landscape initially suggested a lower coexistence probability due to the critical loss of susceptible host individuals within those hotspots. However, the surrounding landscape facilitated demographic rescue through habitat‐dependent movement. Our work demonstrates that the negative effects of temporal mismatches between host resource availability and host life history on host–pathogen coexistence can be reduced through the formation of temporary disease hotspots and host movement decisions, with implications for disease management under disturbances and global change.
Published in: Ecology and Evolution, 10.1002/ece3.7478, Wiley