Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Disease can shape marine ecosystems

March 6, 2020

This chapter reviews how marine ecosystems respond to parasites. Evidence from several marine ecosystems shows that parasites can wield control over ecosystem structure, function, and dynamics by regulating host density and phenotype. Like predators, parasites can generate or modify trophic cascades, regulate important foundational species and ecosystem engineers, and mediate species coexistence by affecting competitive outcomes. Sometimes the parasites have clear positive impacts within ecosystems, such as increasing species diversity or maintaining ecosystem stability. Other times, parasites may have destabilizing effects that signal an ecosystem out of balance. But it is now clear that some (but not all) parasites can have strong and, at times, predictable effects, and should thus be incorporated into food web and ecosystem models.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Disease can shape marine ecosystems
DOI 10.1093/oso/9780198821632.003.0003
Authors Joseph P Morton, Brian R Silliman, Kevin D. Lafferty
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Series Title
Series Number
Index ID 70209827
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center