An important contribution to infectious disease emergence in wildlife is environmental degradation driven by pollution, habitat fragmentation, and eutrophication. Amphibians are a wildlife group that is particularly sensitive to land use change, infectious diseases, and their interactions. Residential suburban land use is now a dominant, and increasing, form of land cover in the USA and globally, contributing to increased pollutant and nutrient loading in freshwater systems. We examined how suburbanization affects the infection of green frog (Rana clamitans) tadpoles and metamorphs by parasitic flatworms (Echinostoma spp.) through the alteration of landscapes surrounding ponds and concomitant changes in water quality. Using sixteen small ponds along a forest-suburban land use gradient, we assessed how the extent of suburban land use surrounding ponds influenced echinostome infection in both primary snail and secondary frog hosts. Our results show that the degree of suburbanization and concurrent chemical loading are positively associated with the presence and burden of echinostome infection in both host populations. This work contributes to a broader understanding of how land use mediates wildlife parasitism and shows how human activities at the household scale can have similar consequences for wildlife health as seemingly more intensive land uses like agriculture or urbanization.
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We thank the gracious homeowners who provided us access to survey the suburban ponds, M. Smylie and A. Roman for field assistance, P. Johnson and D. Calhoun for laboratory training, as well as the Yale Analytic and Stable Isotope Center for help with water sample analysis. Many thanks to K. Burghardt, L. Smith, R. Buchkowski, A. Rosenblatt, A. Moore, K. Urban-Meade and M. Holgerson for their advice with methodology and statistical analysis. Funding for this project was provided by grants to M.C.V from the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, David Schiff Fund for Wildlife Research, and the Yale University Carpenter/Sperry Matching Fund. The author declares no conflict of interest. All applicable institutional and/or national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
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VanAcker, M.C., Lambert, M.R., Schmitz, O.J. et al. Suburbanization Increases Echinostome Infection in Green Frogs and Snails. EcoHealth 16, 235–247 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-019-01427-1
- Rana clamitans
- Host-parasite interactions
- Land use change