Parasitism and the biodiversity-functioning relationship

Trends in Ecology and Evolution
By: , and 



Biodiversity affects ecosystem functioning.

Biodiversity may decrease or increase parasitism.

Parasites impair individual hosts and affect their role in the ecosystem.

Parasitism, in common with competition, facilitation, and predation, could regulate BD-EF relationships.

Parasitism affects host phenotypes, including changes to host morphology, behavior, and physiology, which might increase intra- and interspecific functional diversity.

The effects of parasitism on host abundance and phenotypes, and on interactions between hosts and the remaining community, all have potential to alter community structure and BD-EF relationships.

Global change could facilitate the spread of invasive parasites, and alter the existing dynamics between parasites, communities, and ecosystems.

Species interactions can influence ecosystem functioning by enhancing or suppressing the activities of species that drive ecosystem processes, or by causing changes in biodiversity. However, one important class of species interactions – parasitism – has been little considered in biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (BD-EF) research. Parasites might increase or decrease ecosystem processes by reducing host abundance. Parasites could also increase trait diversity by suppressing dominant species or by increasing within-host trait diversity. These different mechanisms by which parasites might affect ecosystem function pose challenges in predicting their net effects. Nonetheless, given the ubiquity of parasites, we propose that parasite–host interactions should be incorporated into the BD-EF framework.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Parasitism and the biodiversity-functioning relationship
Series title Trends in Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.1016/j.tree.2018.01.011
Volume 33
Issue 4
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 9 p.
First page 260
Last page 268
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