Seminars

March 3 2016

17:00 154 BSRB

EcoEvoPub Series

Graduate Student Presentations

Summary

Parasitism as a way of life: lifting the nutritional resource constraint permits parasites to approach the Darwinian Demon. This evolutionary perspective illuminates the role of parasites in ecological systems. Infectious agents, when included in food webs, reveal that it is a much more connected and interactive world than when infectious diseases are ignored. More limited research on energetics indicates that, at least in some aquatic ecosystems, parasites have considerable biomass and high productivity. This implies that the infectious process plays a surprisingly substantial role in ecosystem energetics. Here I ask what are key factors that determine the role of parasites in ecosystems? Where and when is the infectious process important with respect to other ecosystem-level processes such as predation, competition and disturbance? Host density, overall biodiversity, invasive species, pollution and environmental persistence likely have significant impacts on the role of the infectious process. All are of concern with respect to climate change or to other anthropogenic impacts. These ecosystem attributes generate hypotheses regarding the role of infectious processes. Changes in the role of infectious processes, as climate changes and humans alter environments, are predictable. The role of infectious processes will likely be increased when and where host densities increase, environments become less polluted, are less invaded, are more persistent and have higher biodiversity.