How environmental stress affects the impacts of parasites

Lafferty, Kevin D., Armand M. Kuris

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(3_part_2), 1999, 925-931 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.3_part_2.0925

ABSTRACT: Parasites occur in nearly every population. They often interact in complex ways with other stressors. In some cases, the interaction may lead to a disproportionately negative effect on the host population. In other cases, the stressor may ameliorate the effects of parasitism. Here we illustrate intersections of four types of environmental stressors with infectious diseases. First, pollutants may increase parasitism by increasing host susceptibility or by increasing the abundance of intermediate hosts and vectors. Pollutants can also decrease parasitism if infected hosts suffer differentially high mortality, parasites are more susceptible to pollution than their hosts, or if pollutants negatively affect intermediate hosts or vectors. These effects vary depending on the particular parasite and pollutant that interact. Second, habitat alterations such as impounding water or development can affect both intermediate host and vector populations such that the abundance of their attendant parasites is either increased or reduced. Third, fisheries can impact populations already stressed by disease. However, they may act to lower the density of a host population below the threshold for sustained transmission to such an extent that the parasite population can no longer persist. Fourth, introduced species may introduce new diseases to susceptible native populations or they may gain an advantage if they invade without the parasites from their native range. The complexity and ubiquity of these interactions are good arguments for considering parasitism when evaluating stressors of aquatic systems.

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