Risk factors for Lyme disease : A scale-dependent effect of host species diversity and a consistent negative effect of host phylogenetic diversity: Host diversity and Lyme risk

Wang, Yingying X.G.; Matson, Kevin D.; Prins, Herbert H.T.; Xu, Yanjie; Huang, Zheng Y.X.; Boer, Willem F. de


Biodiversity can influence disease risk. One example of a diversity-disease relationship is the dilution effect, which suggests higher host species diversity (often indexed by species richness) reduces disease risk. While numerous studies support the dilution effect, its generality remains controversial. Most studies of diversity-disease relationships have overlooked the potential importance of phylogenetic diversity. Furthermore, most studies have tested diversity-disease relationships at one spatial scale, even though such relationships are likely scale dependent. Using Lyme disease as a model system, we investigated the effects of host species richness and phylogenetic relatedness on the number of reported Lyme disease cases in humans in the U.S.A. at two spatial scales (the county level and the state level) using piecewise structural equation modelling. We also accounted for relevant climatic and habitat-related factors and tested their correlations with the number of Lyme disease cases. We found that species assemblages with more related species (i.e., host species in the order Rodentia) were associated with more Lyme disease cases in humans. Host species richness correlated negatively with the number of Lyme disease cases at the state level (i.e., a dilution effect), a pattern that might be explained by the higher number of reservoir-incompetent species at high levels of species richness at this larger spatial scale. In contrast, a positive correlation was found between species richness and the number of Lyme disease cases at the county level, where a higher proportion of rodent species was associated with higher levels of species richness, potentially amplifying the disease risk. Our results highlight that analyse at a single spatial scale can miss some impacts of biodiversity on human health. Thus, multi-scale analyses with consideration of host phylogenetic diversity are critical for improving our understanding of diversity-disease relationships.