Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research

Pathogenic landscapes: Interactions between land, people, disease vectors, and their animal hosts

Eric F Lambin12*, Annelise Tran345, Sophie O Vanwambeke1, Catherine Linard6 and Valérie Soti3

Author affiliations

1 Georges Lemaître Centre for Earth and Climate Research, Earth and Life Institute, University of Louvain, 3 place Pasteur, Louvain-la-Neuve, B-1348, Belgium

2 School of Earth Sciences and Woods Institute, Stanford University, 473 Via Ortega, Stanford, CA 94305-4216, USA

3 CIRAD, Animal et gestion intégrée des risques (Agirs), CIRAD, Montpellier, France

4 CIRAD, UMR Territoires, environnement, télédétection et information spatiale (TETIS), CIRAD, Montpellier, France

5 SAS Nevantropic, Cayenne, French Guiana, France

6 Spatial Ecology and Epidemiology Group, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Tinbergen Building, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PS, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

International Journal of Health Geographics 2010, 9:54  doi:10.1186/1476-072X-9-54

Published: 27 October 2010



Landscape attributes influence spatial variations in disease risk or incidence. We present a review of the key findings from eight case studies that we conducted in Europe and West Africa on the impact of land changes on emerging or re-emerging vector-borne diseases and/or zoonoses. The case studies concern West Nile virus transmission in Senegal, tick-borne encephalitis incidence in Latvia, sandfly abundance in the French Pyrenees, Rift Valley Fever in the Ferlo (Senegal), West Nile Fever and the risk of malaria re-emergence in the Camargue, and rodent-borne Puumala hantavirus and Lyme borreliosis in Belgium.


We identified general principles governing landscape epidemiology in these diverse disease systems and geographic regions. We formulated ten propositions that are related to landscape attributes, spatial patterns and habitat connectivity, pathways of pathogen transmission between vectors and hosts, scale issues, land use and ownership, and human behaviour associated with transmission cycles.


A static view of the "pathogenecity" of landscapes overlays maps of the spatial distribution of vectors and their habitats, animal hosts carrying specific pathogens and their habitat, and susceptible human hosts and their land use. A more dynamic view emphasizing the spatial and temporal interactions between these agents at multiple scales is more appropriate. We also highlight the complementarity of the modelling approaches used in our case studies. Integrated analyses at the landscape scale allows a better understanding of interactions between changes in ecosystems and climate, land use and human behaviour, and the ecology of vectors and animal hosts of infectious agents.