Anthropogenic disturbance may lead to the spread of vector-borne diseases through effects on pathogens, vectors, and hosts. Identifying the type and extent of vector response to habitat change will enable better and more accurate management strategies for anthropogenic disease spread. We compiled and analyzed data from published empirical studies to test for patterns among flea and small mammal diversity, abundance, several measures of flea infestation, and host specificity in 70 small mammal communities of five biomes and three levels of human disturbance: remote/wild areas, agricultural areas, and urban areas. Ten of 12 mammal and flea characteristics showed a significant effect of disturbance category (six), biome (four), or both (two). Six variables had a significant interaction effect. For mammal-flea communities in forest habitats (39 of the 70 communities), disturbance affected all 12 characteristics. Overall, flea and mammal richness were higher in remote versus urban sites. Most measures of flea infestation, including percent of infested mammals and fleas/mammal and fleas/mammal species increased with increasing disturbance or peaked at intermediate levels of disturbance. In addition, host use increased, and the number of specialist fleas decreased, as human disturbance increased. Of the three most common biomes (forest, grassland/savanna, desert), deserts were most sensitive to disturbance. Finally, sites of intermediate disturbance were most diverse and exhibited characteristics associated with increased disease spread. Anthropogenic disturbance was associated with conditions conducive to increased transmission of flea-borne diseases.
- Emerging disease
- Global change
- Zoonotic disease
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics