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.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics