U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Ecology Letters. 2022;25:1760–1782.

DOI: 10.1111/ele.14032


U.S. government work


Pathogen transmission depends on host density, mobility and contact. These components emerge from host and pathogen movements that themselves arise through interactions with the surrounding environment. The environment, the emergent host and pathogen movements, and the subsequent patterns of density, mobility and contact form an ‘epidemiological landscape’ connecting the environment to specific locations where transmissions occur. Conventionally, the epidemiological landscape has been described in terms of the geographical coordinates where hosts or pathogens are located. We advocate for an alternative approach that relates those locations to attributes of the local environment. Environmental descriptions can strengthen epidemiological forecasts by allowing for predictions even when local geographical data are not available. Environmental predictions are more accessible than ever thanks to new tools from movement ecology, and we introduce a ‘movement-pathogen pace of life’ heuristic to help identify aspects of movement that have the most influence on spatial epidemiology. By linking pathogen transmission directly to the environment, the epidemiological landscape offers an efficient path for using environmental information to inform models describing when and where transmission will occur.