No uniform associations between parasite prevalence and environmental nutrients
Aalto, S., Ketola, T., & Pulkkinen, K. (2014). No uniform associations between parasite prevalence and environmental nutrients. Ecology, 95 (9), 2558-2568. doi:10.1890/13-2007.1
© The Ecological Society of America.
The resource quality of the host has been shown to affect parasite transmission success, prevalence, and virulence. Seasonal availability of environmental nutrients alters density and stoichiometric quality (carbon–nutrient ratios) of both producers and consumers, suggesting that nutrient availability may drive fluctuations in parasite prevalence patterns observed in nature. We examined the interactions between the population dynamics of a keystone herbivore, Daphnia, and its parasites, and their associations with water nutrient concentrations, resource quantity and quality, and other environmental variables (temperature, pH, oxygen concentration) in a small lake, using general linear models. We found that the prevalence of two gut endoparasites was positively related to food source and quality as well as nitrogen content of Daphnia, whereas the prevalence of an epibiont and overall parasite species richness was negatively related to phosphorus content of Daphnia. When only endoparasite species richness was considered, no connections to nutrients were found. Daphnia density was not connected to parasites, but we found interactions between Daphnia fecundity and parasite prevalence. Overall, our results suggest that environmental nutrient concentrations and stoichiometric quality of the host have the potential to affect seasonality in parasite epidemics, but the connections between environmental carbon : nutrient ratios and parasite prevalence patterns are diverse and species specific. ...