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Review
, 21 (7), 381-5

Is a Healthy Ecosystem One That Is Rich in Parasites?

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Review

Is a Healthy Ecosystem One That Is Rich in Parasites?

Peter J Hudson et al. Trends Ecol Evol.

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.

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