Parasite vulnerability to climate change: an evidence-based functional trait approach

Carrie A Cizauskas, Colin J Carlson, Kevin R Burgio, Chris F Clements, Eric R Dougherty, Nyeema C Harris, Anna J Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Despite the number of virulent pathogens that are projected to benefit from global change and to spread in the next century, we suggest that a combination of coextinction risk and climate sensitivity could make parasites at least as extinction prone as any other trophic group. However, the existing interdisciplinary toolbox for identifying species threatened by climate change is inadequate or inappropriate when considering parasites as conservation targets. A functional trait approach can be used to connect parasites' ecological role to their risk of disappearance, but this is complicated by the taxonomic and functional diversity of many parasite clades. Here, we propose biological traits that may render parasite species particularly vulnerable to extinction (including high host specificity, complex life cycles and narrow climatic tolerance), and identify critical gaps in our knowledge of parasite biology and ecology. By doing so, we provide criteria to identify vulnerable parasite species and triage parasite conservation efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number160535
Number of pages12
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number1
Early online date1 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017

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