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Do indirect effects of Helminthic Parasites manifest on an ecosystem level?

2012Do indirect effects of Helminthic Parasites manifest on an ecosystem level?MITCHELL Simon (United Kingdom)
Organisation:Christian Albrechts University, Kiel (DE) - University of Georgia, Athens GA (USA)Supervisor :
Summary: Habitat Engineers are species which have potentially large impacts upon ecosystems because they affect overall structure and assemblage. Numerous authors have mused upon the possibility of parasites influencing their host in ways which induce ecosystem level changes through effects upon habitat engineers. Though there are few clear examples of this from terrestrial systems it has been shown that parasites can reduce populations of herbivorous habitat engineers in such a way that large scale effects occur. However, it is less certain whether more cryptic sub-clinical effects of infection may also manifest on such large scales. By investigating the impacts of helminthic parasites upon African Buffalo (a habitat engineer) and carefully analyzing the variation in both rumen nitrogen and fecal nitrogen across gradients of body condtion and parasite load it is hoped to gain an insight into the overall changes in dietary preference which are induced by parasitic infection. This should even allow the measurement of the average increase in dietary nitrogen cause by mean parasite loads across the entire population. This can then be related to possible ecosystem level effects since it will provide a quantifiable measure of the change in nitrogen uptake which nematodes cause in their hosts.