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Thursday, December 15 • 08:45 - 09:45
Plenary Speaker / Conferencière Principale

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Network Theory to Study Ecological Processes

Climate and land-use changes will require species to move large distances following shifts in their suitable habitats, which will frequently involve traversing intensively human-modified landscapes. Practitioners will therefore need to evaluate and act to enhance the degree to which habitat patches scattered throughout the landscape may function as spatial networks facilitating dispersal among otherwise isolated habitat areas. Here I present how network and spatial approaches can help to quantify how landscape spatial heterogeneity influences (1) host-parasite interaction structure using bipartite mutualistic networks; (3) host-parasite beta diversity; and (3) potential spread of a vector-borne disease system using a generalized network connectivity model. First the role of urbanization as a gradient of landscape spatial heterogeneity on host parasite prevalence and host-parasite interactions is investigated. Both the bipartite and beta-diversity methods identify that urbanization influences the structure of host-parasite interactions in multiple host populations as well as host-parasite diversity. Then using a generalized network model of habitat connectivity that accounts for the number of dispersing individuals and for long-distance dispersal processes across generations, I test how stepping-stones are important to promote the spread of vector-borne disease (Lyme disease, Ontario) in fragmented landscapes based on wildlife-host movement. Lyme disease spread is estimated as the probability of infected-tick (I. scapularis) spread comparing a suite of hosts (white-footed mice, American robins and white-tailed deer) in a Lyme-endemic island landscape in Thousand Islands National Park. The results show that stepping-stone habitat is critical for short- and long-distance invasion of both the tick vector and the pathogen by mice and deer.

Overall the novel network models and spatial analyses are powerful tools to anticipate the impact of land use changes on the wildlife and disease spread in fragmented landscapes.

avatar for Marie-Josée Fortin

Marie-Josée Fortin

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, Canada

Thursday December 15, 2016 08:45 - 09:45 EST
Ballroom B