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How does human-induced environmental change influence host-parasite interactions?


Host-parasite interactions are an integral part of ecosystems that influence both ecological and evolutionary processes. Humans are currently altering environments the world over, often with drastic consequences for host-parasite interactions and the prevalence of parasites. The mechanisms behind the changes are, however, poorly known. Here, we explain how host-parasite interactions depend on two crucial steps – encounter rate and host-parasite compatibility – and how human activities are altering them and thereby host-parasite interactions. By drawing on examples from the literature, we show that changes in the two steps depend on the influence of human activities on a range of factors, such as the density and diversity of hosts and parasites, the search strategy of the parasite, and the avoidance strategy of the host. Thus, to unravel the mechanisms behind human-induced changes in host-parasite interactions, we have to consider the characteristics of all three parts of the interaction: the host, the parasite and the environment. More attention should now be directed to unfold these mechanisms, focusing on effects of environmental change on the factors that determine encounter rate and compatibility. We end with identifying several areas in urgent need of more investigations.

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* Corresponding author: Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 65, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland. E-mail:
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