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Trends Ecol Evol. 2006 Jul;21(7):381-5. Epub 2006 May 18.

Is a healthy ecosystem one that is rich in parasites?

Author information

1
Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA. pjh18@psu.edu

Abstract

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.

PMID:
16713014
DOI:
10.1016/j.tree.2006.04.007
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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