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Parasitism and Ecosystems$
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Frédéric Thomas, François Renaud, and Jean-François Guegan

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780198529873

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198529873.001.0001

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Parasitism and environmental disturbances

Parasitism and environmental disturbances

(p.113) CHAPTER 7 Parasitism and environmental disturbances
Parasitism and Ecosystems

Kevin D. Lafferty

Armand M. Kuris

Oxford University Press

The major threats to biodiversity: habitat loss, invasive species, over-harvesting, and pollution, impact parasites as well as hosts. Given the interest in the role of parasites in ecosystems and the fact that most ecosystems are impacted by human activities, it would be useful to understand the association between parasitism and environmental disturbance. Unfortunately, a general prediction about this association is not available, given the great variety of stressors coupled with the great diversity of parasites. However, by acknowledging the diversity of parasite life histories and how they interact with different sorts of stressors, the ecological situations where the impact of parasites should increase or decrease in association with anthropogenic impacts to the environment can be predicted. A key environmental concern is that stressors may increase susceptibility to infectious disease in important species. Increases in some diseases, therefore, may indicate impairment of ecosystems. However, some stressors impact parasites more than they do their hosts. In addition, stressors that reduce population density will make it more difficult for parasites to persist due to low contact rates between hosts. In these cases, the loss of parasites will represent ecosystem degradation. Hence, parasites may provide useful indicators of ecosystem integrity. The loss of parasites from these ecosystems may further reduce biodiversity and other measures of ecosystem function.

Keywords:   habitat alteration, biodiversity loss, pollution, climate change, introduced species, pollutogens

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