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Parasitol Today. 1997 Jul;13(7):251-5.

Environmental parasitology: What can parasites tell us about human impacts on the environment?

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  • 1Marine Science Institute. University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA.


There are a variety of ways that environmental changes affect parasites, suggesting that information on parasites can indicate anthropogenic impacts. Parasitism may increase if the impact reduces host resistance or increases the density of intermediate or definitive hosts. Parasitism may decrease if definitive or intermediate host density declines or parasites suffer higher mortality directly (eg. from toxic effects on parasites) or indirectly (infected hosts suffer differentially high mortality). Although these scenarios are opposing, they can provide a rich set of predictions once we understand the true associations between each parasite and impact. In this review, Kevin Lafferty discusses how parasite ecologists have used and can use parasites to assess environmental quality.

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