Parasite establishment in host communities

Robert D. Holt, Andrew P. Dobson, Michael Begon, Roger G. Bowers, Eric M. Schauber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many pathogens and parasites attack multiple host species, so their ability to invade a host community can depend on host community composition. We present a graphical isocline framework for studying disease establishment in systems with two host species, based on treating host species as resources. The isocline approach provides a natural generalization to multi-host systems of two related concepts in disease ecology - the basic reproductive rate of a parasite, and threshold host density. Qualitative isocline shape characterizes the threshold community configurations that permit parasite establishment. In general, isocline shape reflects the relative forces of inter- and intraspecific transmission of shared parasites. We discuss the qualitative implications of parasite isocline shape for issues of mounting concern in conservation ecology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-842
Number of pages6
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Host-parasite interaction
  • Indirect effects
  • Infectious disease
  • Isocline analysis
  • Multiple host species
  • Parasite invasion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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