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Parasite species may not be as abundant as currently predicted


14/04/2014

IES scientist Giovanni Strona is the first author of an article recently published in the International Journal for Parasitology on the assessment of parasite biodiversity. The article adapts accumulation curves to the study of global parasite species richness. The results of this new method suggest that current predictions are likely to severely overestimate global parasite diversity.

As the approach described in this article is based on purely qualitative (taxonomic) data, focusing on host and parasite species rather than individuals, it may provide general information on the global number of extant parasite species independently of ecological scenarios. By showing that accumulation curves can better represent actual parasite species richness, the authors hope to promote the debate on how much we really know about parasite biodiversity.

While parasites can play fundamental roles in ecosystems, parasitic pests are among the main threats to forests, both currently and in future climate change scenarios. In the case of parasite/pest risk to trees, it is therefore essential to assess whether the existing knowledge about these pests can be used to model the risk of outbreaks or spreading of the pest. The paper shows that investigating pest/tree associations in a subset of the tree species inhabiting a given area could be used to confidently estimate the total number of pests present in that area, with fundamental implications for management strategies.

Modelling the relationships between trees and their pests is one of the main issues that are being addressed within the new Forest Information System for Europe (FISE), which is currently being developed within the IES. FISE, which is expected to be launched over the coming months, aims to provide harmonised information on disturbance and damage to European forests, in order to inform the sustainable management of forests and the implementation of forestry-related policies. It will integrate current forest information systems (including the European Forest Fire Information System - EFFIS, EU forest statistics, and the European Forest Data Centre - EFDAC) into a modular system that will provide information on forest disturbances (such as by pests, invasive alien species and fires), forest ecosystem services, forests and climate change, and forests and the Bio-economy.

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