The critical role of infectious disease in compensatory population growth in response to culling

Eleanor Tanner, Andrew White, Peter W. W. Lurz, Christian Gortázar, Iratxe Díez-Delgado, Mike Boots

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


Despite the ubiquity of disease in nature, the role that disease dynamics play in the compensatory growth response to harvesting has been ignored. We use a mathematical approach to show that harvesting can lead to compensatory growth due to a release from disease-induced mortality. Our findings imply that culling in systems that harbor virulent parasites can reduce disease prevalence and increase population density. Our models predict that this compensation occurs for a broad range of infectious disease characteristics unless the disease induces long-lasting immunity in hosts. Our key insight is that a population can be regulated at a similar density by disease or at reduced prevalence by a combination of culling and disease. We illustrate our predictions with a system-specific model representing wild boar tuberculosis infection, parameterized for central Spain, and find significant compensation to culling. Given that few wildlife diseases are likely to induce long-lived immunity, populations with virulent diseases may often be resilient to harvesting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1-E12
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number1
Early online date29 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • Compensatory growth
  • Culling
  • Disease dynamics
  • Hydra effect
  • Immunity
  • Virulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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