Human alteration of natural habitats may change the processes governing species interactions in wild communities. Wild populations are increasingly impacted by agricultural intensification, yet it is unknown whether this alters biodiversity mediation of disease dynamics.
We investigated the association between plant diversity (species richness, diversity) and infection risk (virus richness, prevalence) in populations of Plantago lanceolata in natural landscapes as well as those occurring at the edges of cultivated fields. Altogether, 27 P. lanceolata populations were surveyed for population characteristics and sampled for PCR detection of five recently characterized viruses.
We find that plant species richness and diversity correlated negatively with virus infection prevalence. Virus species richness declined with increasing plant diversity and richness in natural populations while in agricultural edge populations species richness was moderately higher, and not associated with plant richness. This difference was not explained by changes in host richness between these two habitats, suggesting potential pathogen spill‐over and increased transmission of viruses across the agro‐ecological interface. Host population connectivity significantly decreased virus infection prevalence.
We conclude that human use of landscapes may change the ecological laws by which natural communities are formed with far reaching implications for ecosystem functioning and disease.