Infectious diseases in wildlife: the community ecology context
L. K. Belden
R. N. Harris
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Species diversity can have important effects on disease dynamics. While these effects are often considered with respect to alternate hosts and predators, the influence of diversity may also be seen at the level of the parasite or pathogen. Pathogenic microbes face an array of abiotic and biotic challenges, both within their host and, often, in the external environment. Here, we examine the role of microbial ecology in maintaining health and in contributing to disease. As suggested by some medical scientists and others, we argue that placing pathogens in an ecological context can contribute to our understanding of emerging infectious diseases in natural systems. In addition, we suggest that this view could provide important insights for the conservation of species, including many amphibians, that are threatened by disease outbreaks.