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Fishing drives declines in fish parasite diversity and has variable effects on parasite abundance

TitleFishing drives declines in fish parasite diversity and has variable effects on parasite abundance
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsWood C.L, Sandin SA, Zgliczynski B., Guerra A.S, Micheli F.
Date Published2014/07
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0012-9658
Accession NumberWOS:000339470500021
Keywordsanthropogenic environmental change; biodiversity; bird final hosts; Central; coral-reef; disease; disturbance; extinction risk; fishing; food webs; infectious-diseases; marine ecosystems; northern line islands; pacific; parasites; species-diversity

Despite the ubiquity and ecological importance of parasites, relatively few studies have assessed their response to anthropogenic environmental change. Heuristic models have predicted both increases and decreases in parasite abundance in response to human disturbance, with empirical support for both. However, most studies focus on one or a few selected parasite species. Here, we assess the abundance of parasites of seven species of coral reef fishes collected from three fished and three unfished islands of the Line Islands archipelago in the central equatorial Pacific. Because we chose fish hosts that spanned different trophic levels, taxonomic groups, and body sizes, we were able to compare parasite responses across a broad cross section of the total parasite community in the presence and absence of fishing, a major human impact on marine ecosystems. We found that overall parasite species richness was substantially depressed on fished islands, but that the response of parasite abundance varied among parasite taxa: directly transmitted parasites were significantly more abundant on fished than on unfished islands, while the reverse was true for trophically transmitted parasites. This probably arises because trophically transmitted parasites require multiple host species, some of which are the top predators most sensitive to fishing impacts. The increase in directly transmitted parasites appeared to be due to fishing-driven compensatory increases in the abundance of their hosts. Together, these results provide support for the predictions of both heuristic models, and indicate that the direction of fishing's impact on parasite abundance is mediated by parasite traits, notably parasite transmission strategies.

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