Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Life in the margins: host-parasite relationships in ecological edges.

Abstract

Transitional zones, such as edge habitat, are key landscapes for investigating biodiversity. "Soft edges" are permeable corridors that hosts can cross, while "hard edges" are impermeable borders that hosts cannot pass. Although pathogen transmission in the context of edges is vital to species conservation, drivers of host-parasite relationships in ecological edges remain poorly understood. Thus, we defined a framework for testing hypotheses of host-parasite interactions in hard and soft edges by (1) characterizing hard and soft edges from both the host and parasite perspectives, (2) predicting the types of parasites that would be successful in each type of edge, and (3) applying our framework to species invasion fronts as an example of host-parasite relationships in a soft edge. Generally, we posited that parasites in soft edges are more likely to be negatively affected by habitat fragmentation than their hosts because they occupy higher trophic levels but parasite transmission would benefit from increased host connectivity. Parasites along hard edges, however, are at higher risk of local extinction due to host population perturbations with limited opportunity for parasite recolonization. We then used these characteristics to predict functional traits that would lead to parasite success along soft and hard edges. Finally, we applied our framework to invasive species fronts to highlight predictions regarding host connectivity and parasite traits in soft edges. We anticipate that our work will promote a more complete discussion of habitat connectivity using a common framework and stimulate empirical research into host-parasite relationships within ecological edges and transitional zones.