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Credit: Klaus Stiefel/Flickr

Reevaluating the role of parasites in ecosystems

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Jesse Nichols reports for Grist.


In short:

  • Chelsea Wood, a parasite ecologist, highlights the often misunderstood benefits of parasites in ecosystems, using their complex interactions to argue their importance.
  • Wood compares parasite roles to historical predator roles in ecosystems, noting significant parallels in their necessity for environmental balance.
  • Recent studies by Wood's team show a decline in complex parasites due to climate change, raising concerns about the broader ecological impacts.

Key quote:

“In some populations, 100 percent of them are infected, and 50 percent of their biomass is parasite."

— Chelsea Wood, University of Washington

Why this matters:

This research challenges our traditional view of parasites as mere pests and instead reveals their integral role in maintaining ecological balance and how their loss could signify broader environmental issues. Read more: The planet’s largest ecosystems could collapse faster than we thought.

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