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Is a healthy ecosystem one that is rich in parasites?

January 1, 2006

Historically, the role of parasites in ecosystem functioning has been considered trivial because a cursory examination reveals that their relative biomass is low compared with that of other trophic groups. However there is increasing evidence that parasite-mediated effects could be significant: they shape host population dynamics, alter interspecific competition, influence energy flow and appear to be important drivers of biodiversity. Indeed they influence a range of ecosystem functions and have a major effect on the structure of some food webs. Here, we consider the bottom-up and top-down processes of how parasitism influences ecosystem functioning and show that there is evidence that parasites are important for biodiversity and production; thus, we consider a healthy system to be one that is rich in parasite species.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2006
Title Is a healthy ecosystem one that is rich in parasites?
DOI 10.1016/j.tree.2006.04.007
Authors Peter J. Hudson, Andrew P. Dobson, Kevin D. Lafferty
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Trends in Ecology and Evolution
Series Number
Index ID 70190534
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center