Electronic supplementary material from Scale dependencies and generalism in host use shape virus prevalence

Processes that generate the distribution of pathogens and their interactions with hosts are not insensitive to changes in spatial scale. Spatial scales and species traits are often selected intentionally, based on practical considerations, ignoring biases that the scale and type of observation may introduce. Specifically, these biases might change the interpretation of disease–diversity relationships that are reported as either ‘dilution’ or ‘amplification’ effects. Here, we combine field data of a host–pathogen community with empirical models to test the effects that (i) spatial scale and (ii) host range have on the relationship between plant–virus infection prevalence and diversity. We show that prevalence–diversity relationships are scale-dependent and can produce opposite effects associated with different habitats at sub-ecosystem scales. The total number of host species of each virus reflected generalism at the ecosystem scale. However, plasticity in host range resembled habitat-specific specialization and also changed model predictions. We show that habitat heterogeneity, ignored at larger (ecosystem) spatial scales, influences pathogen distributions. Hence, understanding disease distributions and the evolution of pathogens requires reconciling specific hypotheses of the study with an appropriate spatial scale, or scales, and consideration of traits, such as host range, that might strongly contribute to biotic interactions.