Experimental habitat fragmentation disrupts nematode infections in Australian skinks

Julian Resasco, Matthew E. Bitters, Saul A. Cunningham, Hugh I. Jones, Valerie J. McKenzie, Kendi F. Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Habitat conversion and fragmentation threaten biodiversity and disrupt species interactions. While parasites are recognized as ecologically important, the impacts of fragmentation on parasitism are poorly understood relative to other species interactions. This lack of understanding is in part due to confounding landscape factors that accompany fragmentation. Fragmentation experiments provide the opportunity to fill this knowledge gap by mechanistically testing how fragmentation affects parasitism while controlling landscape factors. In a large-scale, long-term experiment, we asked how fragmentation affects a host-parasite interaction between a skink and a parasitic nematode, which is trophically transmitted via a terrestrial amphipod intermediate host. We expected that previously observed amphipod declines resulting from fragmentation would result in decreased transmission of nematodes to skinks. In agreement, we found that nematodes were absent among skinks in the cleared matrix and that infections in fragments were about one quarter of those in continuous forest. Amphipods found in gut contents of skinks and collected from pitfall traps mirrored this pattern. A structural equation model supported the expectation that fragmentation disrupted this interaction by altering the abundance of amphipods and suggested that other variables are likely also important in mediating this effect. These findings advance understanding of how landscape change affects parasitism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number02547
Number of pages8
JournalEcology
Volume100
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019

Cite this

Resasco, J., Bitters, M. E., Cunningham, S. A., Jones, H. I., McKenzie, V. J., & Davies, K. F. (2019). Experimental habitat fragmentation disrupts nematode infections in Australian skinks. Ecology, 100(1), [02547]. https://doi.org/10.1002/ecy.2547
Resasco, Julian ; Bitters, Matthew E. ; Cunningham, Saul A. ; Jones, Hugh I. ; McKenzie, Valerie J. ; Davies, Kendi F. / Experimental habitat fragmentation disrupts nematode infections in Australian skinks. In: Ecology. 2019 ; Vol. 100, No. 1.
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Resasco, J, Bitters, ME, Cunningham, SA, Jones, HI, McKenzie, VJ & Davies, KF 2019, 'Experimental habitat fragmentation disrupts nematode infections in Australian skinks' Ecology, vol. 100, no. 1, 02547. https://doi.org/10.1002/ecy.2547

Experimental habitat fragmentation disrupts nematode infections in Australian skinks. / Resasco, Julian; Bitters, Matthew E.; Cunningham, Saul A.; Jones, Hugh I.; McKenzie, Valerie J.; Davies, Kendi F.

In: Ecology, Vol. 100, No. 1, 02547, 01.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Experimental habitat fragmentation disrupts nematode infections in Australian skinks

AU - Resasco, Julian

AU - Bitters, Matthew E.

AU - Cunningham, Saul A.

AU - Jones, Hugh I.

AU - McKenzie, Valerie J.

AU - Davies, Kendi F.

PY - 2019/1

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AB - Habitat conversion and fragmentation threaten biodiversity and disrupt species interactions. While parasites are recognized as ecologically important, the impacts of fragmentation on parasitism are poorly understood relative to other species interactions. This lack of understanding is in part due to confounding landscape factors that accompany fragmentation. Fragmentation experiments provide the opportunity to fill this knowledge gap by mechanistically testing how fragmentation affects parasitism while controlling landscape factors. In a large-scale, long-term experiment, we asked how fragmentation affects a host-parasite interaction between a skink and a parasitic nematode, which is trophically transmitted via a terrestrial amphipod intermediate host. We expected that previously observed amphipod declines resulting from fragmentation would result in decreased transmission of nematodes to skinks. In agreement, we found that nematodes were absent among skinks in the cleared matrix and that infections in fragments were about one quarter of those in continuous forest. Amphipods found in gut contents of skinks and collected from pitfall traps mirrored this pattern. A structural equation model supported the expectation that fragmentation disrupted this interaction by altering the abundance of amphipods and suggested that other variables are likely also important in mediating this effect. These findings advance understanding of how landscape change affects parasitism.

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KW - biodiversity

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KW - habitat fragmentation

KW - habitat loss

KW - Hedruris

KW - Lampropholis guichenoti

KW - lizard

KW - nematode

KW - parasite

KW - skink

KW - Wog Wog

KW - SPECIES INTERACTIONS

KW - PARASITE

KW - BIODIVERSITY

KW - FOREST

KW - PREDATORS

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VL - 100

JO - Ecology

JF - Ecology

SN - 0012-9658

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ER -

Resasco J, Bitters ME, Cunningham SA, Jones HI, McKenzie VJ, Davies KF. Experimental habitat fragmentation disrupts nematode infections in Australian skinks. Ecology. 2019 Jan;100(1). 02547. https://doi.org/10.1002/ecy.2547