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Biodiversity loss and infectious diseases: chapter 5

January 1, 2014

When conservation biologists think about infectious diseases, their thoughts are mostly negative. Infectious diseases have been associated with the extinction and endangerment of some species, though this is rare, and other factors like habitat loss and poorly regulated harvest still are the overwhelming drivers of endangerment. Parasites are pervasive and play important roles as natural enemies on par with top predators, from regulating population abundances to maintaining species diversity. Sometimes, parasites themselves can be endangered. However, it seems unlikely that humans will miss extinct parasites. Parasites are often sensitive to habitat loss and degradation, making them positive indicators of ecosystem “health”. Conservation biologists need to carefully consider infectious diseases when planning conservation actions. This can include minimizing the movement of domestic and invasive species, vaccination, and culling.