Skip to main content

Habitat specialization by wildlife reduces pathogen spread in urbanizing landscapes

Cite this dataset

Teitelbaum, Claire; Altizer, Sonia; Hall, Richard (2021). Habitat specialization by wildlife reduces pathogen spread in urbanizing landscapes [Dataset]. Dryad.


Urban areas are expanding globally, with far-reaching ecological consequences, including for wildlife-pathogen interactions. Wildlife show tremendous variation in their responses to urbanization; even within a single population, some individuals can specialize on urban or natural habitat types. This specialization could alter pathogen impacts on host populations via changes to wildlife movement and aggregation. Here, we build a mechanistic model to explore how habitat specialization in urban landscapes affects interactions between a mobile host population and a density-dependent specialist pathogen that confers no immunity. We model movement on a network of resource-stable urban sites and resource-fluctuating natural sites, where hosts are either urban specialists, natural specialists, or generalists that use both patch types. We find that, for generalists, natural and partially urban landscapes produce the highest infection prevalence and mortality, driven by high movement rates at natural sites and high densities at urban sites. However, habitat specialization protects hosts from these negative effects of partially urban landscapes by limiting movement between patch types. These findings suggest that habitat specialization can benefit populations by reducing infectious disease transmission, but by reducing movement between habitat types could also carry the cost of reducing other movement-related ecosystem functions such as seed dispersal and pollination.


National Science Foundation, Award: Graduate Research Fellowship

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1754392

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1518611

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1911925