Biodiversity, Community Ecology, and the Dilution Effect

Biodiversity can protect human health by reducing the probability of human exposure to disease agents transmitted from wildlife. Human-induced environmental changes, such as habitat fragmentation, can inadvertently increase disease risk by reducing both predators and biodiversity.

A major effort in the Ostfeld lab is the theoretical development and empirical testing of the Dilution Effect, which describes the mechanisms by which vertebrate diversity protects people against exposure to zoonotic diseases. Intensive study of the ecology of Lyme disease has been instrumental in developing this theory

Habitat Fragmentation

The conversion of forest into suburban developments and agricultural fields has resulted in the fragmentation of forested landscapes in eastern and central North America.

Dilution Effect

Dilution Effect occurs when high host diversity dilutes the impact of white-footed mice, reducing mouse-tick interactions and subsequent disease risk.

red fox

Predators

Rodent predators have a strong potential to protect human health. Generalist or highly mobile predators seem likely to be most effective at regulating rodent numbers at low levels, whereas specialist predators of limited mobility appear responsible for dramatically fluctuating rodent populations.

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