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

7 Citations (Scopus)
13 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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