Coupled Models of the Ecology of Poverty and Disease

We combine ecological and economic theory to model coupled natural-human systems of the poor, with a particular focus on infectious diseases.  These models are general and flexible, and are applied to a range of systems across the developing world. We are especially interested in “emergent properties” of these systems, as exemplified by the concept of “poverty traps”.


These figures demonstrate a strong geographic signature on the distribution of poverty and disease around the world. (Bonds, et al.. 2012).

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“Poverty traps” are an emergent property of coupled economic-ecological systems. These figures represent phase diagrams that depict multiple stable states based on feedbacks between human capital, infectious diseases, and food resources (Ngonghala, et al 2014).

Selected Publications

“Contagious Disruptions and Complexity Traps in Economic Development” Nature Human Behaviour, Brummitt, C. Hermovic, K. Pin, P., Bonds, MH. and Redondo F., in press.

General ecological models for human subsistence, health, and poverty,” Nature Ecology & Evolution, Ngonghala*, C.N., De Leo, G., Pascual, M., , Keenan, D.C., Dobson, A. and M.H. Bonds* 2017.

Poverty, disease, and the ecology of complex systems,”  Ngonghala*, C.N., Plucinski, M., Murray, M.B., Farmer, P., Barrett, C., Keenan, D.C. and M.H. Bonds*, PLoS Biology, 2014.

An economic valuation of the subsistence harvest of wildlife in Madagascar,” Conservation Biology, 2014 Golden, C.D. Bonds, M.H., Brashares, J.S., Rasolofoniaina, B.J.R., and C. Kremen.

Disease ecology, biodiversity and the latitudinal gradient in income,” PLOS Biology 2012.  Bonds, M.H., Dobson, A. F. and D.C. Keenan. 2012. (F1000)

Poverty trap formed by the ecology of infectious diseases,Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, 2010 277:1185- 1192. Bonds, M.H., D.C. Keenan, P. Rohani, and J. D. Sachs.

More of Our Work in Action in Ecology of Poverty