Biodiversity inhibits parasites: Broad evidence for the dilution effect

ABSTRACT:The dilution effect hypothesis suggests that diverse ecological communities limit disease spread via several mechanisms. Therefore, biodiversity losses could worsen epidemics that harm humans and wildlife. However, there is contentious debate over whether the hypothesis applies broadly, especially for parasites that infect humans. We address this fundamental question with a formal meta-analysis of >200 assessments relating biodiversity to disease in >60 host–parasite systems. We find overwhelming evidence of dilution, which is independent of host density, study design, and type and specialization of parasites. A second analysis identified similar effects of diversity in plant–herbivore systems. Thus, biodiversity generally decreases parasitism and herbivory. Consequently, human-induced declines in biodiversity could increase human and wildlife diseases and decrease crop and forest production.

Category: Papers Genetic diversity
Authors: Civitello, D. et al.
Publication Year: 2015

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