Parasitological Consequences of Overcrowding in Protected Areas
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- Lebarbenchon, C., Poulin, R., Gauthier-Clerc, M. et al. EcoHealth (2006) 3: 303. doi:10.1007/s10393-006-0067-z
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For the past several years, there has been growing interest in understanding the dynamics of parasites in ecosystems, as well as the diversity of ways in which they interfere with conservation and health preoccupations. Although it is widely recognized that many conservation practices (e.g., wildlife translocations, species removal, food supplementation) may be associated with parasite-related problems, less attention has been devoted to exploring the parasitological consequences of the overcrowding of animals in protected wildlife areas. Here, we discuss this important ecological/epidemiological problem, presenting at the same time an overview of the main questions and challenges in this field. Using empirical and theoretical examples chosen from the literature, we focus particularly on the interactions between the overcrowding of free living species and parasite population dynamics, the evolution of parasite virulence, the indirect effects on the structure of invertebrate communities, as well as the nutritional value of prey species. We argue that conservation policies should be aware more than ever of this problem, especially given the serious health risks currently posed by the spread of virulent viruses (e.g., avian influenza).