Contrasting effects of host species and phylogenetic diversity on the occurrence of HPAI H5N1 in European wild birds

Zheng Y.X. Huang*, Chi Xu, Frank van Langevelde, Yuying Ma, Tom Langendoen, Taej Mundkur, Yali Si, Huaiyu Tian, Robert H.S. Kraus, Marius Gilbert, Guan Zhu Han, Xiang Ji, Herbert H.T. Prins, Willem F. de Boer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Studies on the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 suggest that wild bird migration may facilitate its long-distance spread, yet the role of wild bird community composition in its transmission risk remains poorly understood. Furthermore, most studies on the diversity–disease relationship focused on host species diversity without considering hosts’ phylogenetic relationships, which may lead to rejecting a species diversity effect when the community has host species that are only distantly related. Here, we explored the influence of waterbird community composition for determining HPAI H5N1 occurrence in wild birds in a continental-scale study across Europe. In particular, we tested the diversity–disease relationship using both host species diversity and host phylogenetic diversity. Our results provide the first demonstration that host community composition—compared with previously identified environmental risk factors—can also effectively explain the spatial pattern of H5N1 occurrence in wild birds. We further show that communities with more higher risk host species and more closely related species have a higher risk of H5N1 outbreaks. Thus, both host species diversity and community phylogenetic structure, in addition to environmental factors, jointly influence H5N1 occurrence. Our work not only extends the current theory on the diversity–disease relationship, but also has important implications for future monitoring of H5N1 and other HPAI subtypes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1044-1053
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number7
Early online date19 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • avian influenza
  • community composition
  • dilution effect
  • diversity–disease relationship
  • phylogenetic distance
  • waterfowl


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