Armand Kuris, Univ. of California Santa Barbara
45 Water St, Woods Hole, MA 02543
Infectious Diseases in a Changing World: Evolution to Ecology
It is a challenge to evolve infectious consumer strategies. It has independently evolved only ~225 times among all Animalia. With this evolutionary perspective a general model of consumer-resource interactions enables the several consumer strategies to be assessed with equivalent power. Sapronotic diseases, lacking a threshold of transmission, put these interactions in the broadest context. Infectious agents, when included in food webs, reveal that it is a much more connected and interactive world than when infectious diseases are ignored. Parasite biomass, in at least some aquatic ecosystems, is substantial and accompanied by high productivity, suggesting that they play a surprisingly substantial role in ecosystem energetics. What are key factors that determine the role of parasites in ecosystems? Where and when is the infectious process important with respect to other ecosystem-level processes such as predation, competition or disturbance? These ecosystem attributes generate hypotheses regarding the role of infectious diseases, as climate changes, and humans alter environments. The role of infectious processes will likely be increased when and where host densities increase, environments become less polluted, are less invaded, are more persistent and have higher biodiversity.