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Parasites as bioindicators of environmental degradation in Latin America: A meta-analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 June 2016

V.M. Vidal-Martínez*
Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Unidad Mérida, Km 6 Carretera Antigua a Progreso, Cordemex, Mérida, Yucatán 97310, México
A.C. Wunderlich
School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, UK


Unregulated economic growth in Latin America has resulted in environmental degradation, including the release of toxic compounds into the environment. One strategy to understand and prevent the outcomes of this harmful environmental degradation is the use of bioindicators. These are free-living or parasite species that respond to habitat alterations with changes in their numbers, physiology or chemical composition. The aim of this review was to determine whether there is evidence of a significant parasite response to environmental damage in Latin America. We collected 26 papers published between 2003 and 2015 and conducted a meta-analysis to test the null hypothesis that there is no significant overall effect of environmental insults on parasites. The meta-analysis showed a low but still significant negative mean overall effect (Hedges’ g = −0.221; 95% CI: −0.241 to −0.200; P < 0.0001). However, the magnitudes and directions of the significant effects varied widely. These results suggest that different groups of parasites have distinct responses to various environmental insults and that the groups should be separately analysed after the accumulation of a sufficient number of studies. For future studies on this topic in Latin America, we suggest: (1) using field and experimental approaches to determine the response of parasites to environmental degradation; (2) using an interdisciplinary approach, including different types of biomarkers in both parasites and individual hosts to generate long-term datasets in polluted and reference areas; (3) conducting studies on parasites as accumulation bioindicators.

Review Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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